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G. D. H. 


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G. D. H. COLE 





T hese essays have been written at various dates over 
the past nine years — most of them during the past 
two or three years. About half of them have been 
printed before, or are based on what has been printed before, 
but have been, revised or re-written. Several were prepared 
for delivery as public lectures : two are based on broadcast 
talks. The record of previous publication will be found on 
page 252 : I have to thank the editors and publishers there 
mentioned for their permission to make use of the material 
in this book. 

Each essay stands by itself ; and there is no pretence of 
making a connected boojc out of them. They have, however, 
a certain unity of outlook, which will, I hope, be seen by 
those who read them in the light of the opening essay — my 
Inaugural Lecture at Oxford — and of the Credo at the end 
of the volume — taken almost word for word, with Mr. Victor 
Gollancz’s permission, from my Intelligent Man's Guide to 
the Post-war World, because I do not know how to express 
better the articles of my social faith, and feel some account 
of them to be in j 'ace in a book which rests upon them for 
all its essential ideas. 


G. D. H. Cole 



Preface v 

i. Scope and Method in Social and Political 

Theory i 

#ii. Sociology and Politics in the Twentieth 

Century 17 

hi. The Teaching of Social Studies in British 

Universities 31 

iv. The Aims of Education 47 

v. An Essay on Social Morality 71 

vi. Democracy Face to Face with Hugeness 90 


vii. The Essentials of Democracy 97 

viii. Rousseau’s Political Theory 113 

ix. The Rights of Man 132 

x. Western Civilization and the Rights of the 

Individual 15 i 

xi. Auguste C'uiVite 157 

• xii. The Communist Manifesto of 1848 170 

xiii. Ideals and Beliefs of the Victorians 189 

xiv. The Claims of Nationality 203 

xv. Reform in the Civil Service 224 

xvi. What I Take for Granted 245 

Note 252 



Scope and Method in Social and 
Political Theory 1 

S ocial ancl Political Theory is a subject (or should I say 
are two subjects ?) upon which centre great, and some- 
times acrimonious, disputes. The very word 4 theory ’ 
is an attempt to steer a middle course, and is apt to displease 
the votaries both of 1 Social and Political Philosophy * and 
of ‘ Social and Political Science \ If I were made to choose 
between calling my subject ‘ Philosophy * and calling it 
4 Science ’ I should unhesitatingly choose 4 Philosophy ’ ; 
but I am very much happier in being allowed to call it 
simply 4 Theory \ It is my business as Professor to contem- 
plate the world of social and political affairs and the concepts 
which belong to that world. I am left free to choose my own 
way of contemplation — my own method — and I have no 
predecessors in niy office, which is a new one, to tie me 
down or compel me to any act of defiant reinterpretation of 
my field of study or of the right and proper way of studying 
in that field. For that very reason, I am under something of 
an obligation to explain, if I can, what I am trying to do. 
Such is the purpose of this lecture — rx>t dogmatism about 
what anyone else ought to do or to attempt, but explana- 
tion, as clear and simple as I can make it, of my own notions 
of how I can best try to make myself useful. 

First, then, I am concerned not only with Political but 
also with Social Theory. What is this word 4 Social ’ 
intended to mean, and what do I mean it to mean, in relation 
to my own work ? It could be taken to mean something 
distinct from 4 Political ’, in the sense of the one excluding 

1 Inaugural Lecture delivered at Oxford on g November 1945 and 
published by the Clarendon Press. 


Essays in Social Theory 

the other ; or something wider than ‘ Political in the sense 
of including it and much besides ; or something narrower , 
in the sense in which social politics are sometimes sf)oken 
of as a branch of politics. Which of these meanings am I 
to take as my starting-point ? 

I shall take the widest, according to which 4 Social ’ is 
the adjective of 4 society ', and 4 society ’ signifies the entire 
complex of human relations where 'er they transcend the 
purely personal and private sphere, so as to become elements 
in the life of communities and of that greater community in 
the making, which is mankind. This does not mean that I 
shall be able to leave out the sphere of .personal and private 
relations, but that I shall concern myself with it directly only 
in its institutional aspects, in which it becomes part of the 
life of 4 society ’ as well as of the lives of the individuals of 
whom, in their public and private relations, 4 society ’ is 
made up. Thus 1 am not concerned with a mother's love 
for her child except to the extent to which this love is oart of 
the family, an institution with which I am necessarily very 
much concerned. The extent to which private and pe sonal 
relations are incorporated into institutions obviously differs 
from society to society, and from time to time ; and there 
arc accordingly no fixed boundaries between the relations 
which come within and those which remain outside the field 
of social studies. But the degree of 4 institutionalization ’ — 
an evil word, but I know not how to avoid it — furnishes a 
rough-and-ready test. 

My subject, the&, as 4 Social Theory ', covers the whole 
field of institutions — or so I interpret it. But that is not 
saying much, unless I can make clear what I mean by 
4 institutions \ Here again the frontiers are undefined, but 
the general meaning, I hope, is not. I mean by 4 institu- 
tions ’ anything that forms part of the effective framework of 
a 4 society ’, and is recognized as doing so, not necessarily 
with approval, but in fact. Evidently, as 4 societies ’ change, 
growing, developing, or decaying, their institutions change 
too. Some things that were institutions cease to be so : new 
institutions arise and force their way to recognition, often 


Scope and Method in Social and Political Theory 

in face of keen resistances. At any time, if change is coming 
about, some things are becoming institutions and others 
ceasiifg to be institutions. There is, however, a difference 
between the two processes] A thing that is becoming an 
institution of a society usually begins by developing as an 
institution of some element in that society, rather than of the 
society as a whole ; whereas a thing that is ceasing to be an 
institution of the whole society may retain its institutional 
character in relation to some elements of that society, but 
may also live oh for a long while as an atrophied institution 
of the whole society, retaining its status because of its 
history, but losing all its potency in the society’s daily life. 
I shall confine my examples to quite modern times, though 
they could be drawn from any age. In the nineteenth 
century in Western Europe Trade Unionism and Co- 
operation were both becoming institutions of whole societies ; 
but they did this by becoming first institutions of the working 
classes and only thereafter forcing their way towards recogni- 
tion b ,the whole societies in which they grew up. On the 
other ij^and, in a number of societies the institution of heredi- 
tary nobility shrank from being a recognized institution of 
the entire society into being one recognized only within 
certain limited social groups. This applies most of all in 
France ; but in a less extreme degree it applies in a good 
many other countries. 

Institutions are of more than one type. Sometimes the 
institution takes the form of an association with a definite 
membership and constitutional structure. In this country 
Parliament, the Church of England and the various Dissent- 
ing Churches, the Trade Union and Co-operative Move- 
ments, the main political parties, the universities and the 
leading professional institutes are all institutions of this 
associative type. But there are other institutions which, 
though they are of course related to persons, are in essence 
impersonal — monogamous marriage, freedom of inherit- 
ance, freedom of association, freedom of the press, monarchy, 
Bank Holidays, the rule of the road, the pound sterling, to 
mention only a few. Usually it takes time for a thing to 


Essays in Social Theory 

become an institution, of either type. New associations, 
new ways of acting, become institutions at once only under 
very exceptional circumstances — for example, oif the 
morrow of a really catastrophic revolution. They become 
so because a people cannot do without institutions, and if a 
large proportion of its institutions is swept away, the process 
,of creating new ones has to be speeded up. In the Russian 
Revolution of 1^17 the Soviets Lecame an institution 
practically at once, though we must not forget that the way 
had been prepared for them by their appearance in the 
abortive Revolution of 1905. The Rate which appeared in 
Germany in 1918 did noFbecome an institution : there was 
no such holocaust of old institutions in Germany as to make 
the necessary vacuum. 

I have said that institutions are of two types. Perhaps I 
should have said rather that they are all of one kind, but can 
incorporate themselves in two different ways. Parliament is 
not only an institution : it is also part of the machinery of 
government, based on the principle of association. Marriage 
is not only an institution, but also a legally sanctioned form 
of relationship between persons. Certain things are institu- 
tions, in the sense of possessing an institutional quality ; but 
that does not prevent them from being what they are in 
other respects. Indeed, the institutional quality is adjectival 
rather than substantive. It is a quality attached to certain 
things which stand significantly for certain elements in the 
organized habits and values of the society in which they are 

I take it, then, that, as a 4 Social Theorist ’, I have to 
study 4 institutions \ But so, evidently, does the Social 
Anthropologist, whose principal field of study they are. 
He, like me, is concerned to study institutions in relation 
to the pattern of community living among peoples, especially 
primitive peoples, in all parts of the world, and to compare 
the results of his local studies and derive from them any 
general conclusions that may emerge — or none, if none do 
emerge. How, then, am I to mark out my field from his ? 
In practice, quite easily ; for he is pre-eminently a field 


Scope and Method in Social and Political Theory 

research worker and a sort of scientist, which I am not, and 
he is concerned primarily with studying how men behave, 
whereas I am concerned much more with their thoughts in 
relation to their behaviour. Or, to put the matter another 
way, he is a, collector and analyser of social data, chiefly 
though not exclusively those of the more primitive societies, 
and his aim is to arrive at scientific judgements about social 
behaviour without any attempt to consider the value of the 
values which form part of the data with which he deals ; 
whereas I use his data, and the conclusions, if any, which he 
draws from them, primarily for the purpose of evaluating 
the values of the different societies in accordance with con- 
ceptions of value which I myself entertain. For the Social 
Anthropologist, such concepts as justice, liberty, order, 
aristocracy, democracy, representation, public spirit, tolera- 
tion, are merely for use as convenient categories for classifi- 
cation, where they are for use at all. He is not concerned 
to think of any of these things as good or bad, or as having 
good and bad aspects. ‘ Good ’ and 4 bad ’ are words that 
do not appear in the Social Anthropologist’s professional 
vocabulary, unless they creep in by inadvertence. Coher-j 
ence, contradiction, unity, confusion — these are concepts 
which he can apply. He can seek to descry 4 patterns of 
culture ’ and can find symmetry here and discordance there. 
But whether the 4 patterns ’ he finds are good or bad it is 
not for him, he will tell you, to say. For as a scientist he 
cannot pass judgements of value involving the concepts of 
‘ good ’ and 4 bad \ 4 Murder ’ is, or should be, as neutral 
a word for him as 4 marriage \ when he is acting in his pro- 
fessional capacity as a scientist. 

Of course, the Social Anthropologist, being a man as well 
as a scientist, often finds it hard to live up to this austerity 
of judgement. He has values, just as much as anybody else ; 
and when he meets with some peculiarly revolting savage 
custom, he condemns it, just as much as anybody else whose 
values belong to the same moral order. But this is not the 
point. Qua Social Anthropologist, he does not make such 


Essays in Social Theory 

Should I make them, in my professional capacity as a 
Social Theorist ? Yes, I should. I have, as I see my task, 
a dual role to fulfil. First, as a £ historian and recorder 
of Social Theories, past and present, I have to disentangle 
in them the foundation of values on which thpy rest. This 
involves me in trying to put myself, again and again, into 
other men’s minds (and into the mental climates of other 
peoples and of other ages) in order to discover the principles 
of coherent valuation which underlie their social judgements 
and aspirations and to present as clear pictures as I can of the 
structure of their social thought in its relation to their social 
practice. I have to explain what they thought and, as far as 
possible, how they came to think such thoughts, to embody 
them in such institutions, or to derive them from such 
environments as I find in being among them. I have to 
attempt these tasks, not statically, but so as to show thoughts, 
institutions, and environments all* in motion and to bring 
out the causal and mutually determinative elements in their 
development. In this capacity, as historian and as recorder, 
I am not concerned to judge other people’s values by my 
own, but, like the Social Anthropologist, to enter into other 
people’s mental skins, and to analyse and compare what I 
find. If this were all I had to do, I should be different from 
the Social Anthropologist only in studying primarily the 
social thought of other times and peoples and using the study 
of institutions only as a means of elucidating their thought 
— and of course also in focusing my attention mainly on 
developed rather tffen on primitive societies, because only in 
developed societies is the content of social thought written 
down, systematized, and consciously evaluated. I too 
should follow, if that were my only task, a quasi-scientific 
method, and though I should be much concerned with other 
men’s values, I should as far as possible avoid proclaiming 
valuations of my own. 

That, however, is not my only, or even my primary, task 
as a Social Theorist. When I study past Social Theories, or 
for that matter the contemporary Social Theories of different 
societies or of schools of thought to which I do not belong, I 


Scope and Method in Social and Political Theory 

do so, not primarily as historian or recorder or for the 
purpose of analysis and comparison — important as all these 
are — but for the practical purpose of suggesting to anyone 
I can influence, and above all to the society to which I 
belong, what is the right pattern of social thought to guide 
social action in the circumstances of here and now. This is 
what all the great Social Theorists of the past have attempted 
to do ; and this is what I am attempting to do. It is not my 
only task ; but it is incomparably my most important, and 
it directs my approach to all the others. 

This means that I have to make, throughout, judgements 
of value. I have to proclaim certain ends as good, and to 
denounce others as evil. I have to make for myself a certain 
picture of man as a social animal, not only as he is but also 
as he is capable of becoming ; and this capacity of becoming 
has to be conceived, not as undifferentiated capacity for 
good and evil, but as ca*pacity for good. Of course, my 
picture has to be made for man as he is, and in the circum- 
stances in which he is placed : not for a different kind of 
person in a different world of nature. I have to deal with 
possibilities, both immediate and ultimate, and betwixt 
and between ; but among possibilities I am concerned to 
designate some as desirable and others as undesirable, in 
accordance with my conceptions of what human aims and 
qualities are good, and what bad. 

What are these conceptions of good and bad with which 
I work ? I will try to state the most elementary, which 
largely govern the rest. First, on tl!e physical plane, 
health. Secondly, on the intellectual plane, desire for know- 
ledge, respect for truth, rationality, tolerance. Thirdly, on 
the aesthetic plane, sensibility, appreciativeness, creative 
imagination. Fourthly, on the plane of conduct, initiative, 
organizing capacity, self-control, and, in a man’s attitude to 
others, cheerfulness, comradeliness, co-operativeness, con- 
sideration, kindness. Fifthly, on the plane of society itself, 
as goods to be realized for the individuals through social 
action, democracy, liberty, social security. These goods are 
of different kinds, and I realize that some of them have their 


Essays in Social Theory 

excesses and perversions and are not therefore good in all 
their manifestations. Nor do I suppose that my list ex- 
hausts all the goods that I should accept as such if the^ were 
named. However, as far as they go, believing them to be the 
goods of most practical importance in relation to the social 
pattern, I believe those societies to be best which achieve 
the amplest practicable combination of them. 

The possibilities of achieving and combining them are, of 
course, always limited by the circumstances of any particular 
society, including its inheritance of both mental and material 
possessions as well as its relation to other societies and to 
developing factors in its environment. .The relative import- 
ance which it can afford to assign to different goods depends 
on these possibilities ; and one good can be pursued more 
easily in some circumstances and another in others. I there- 
fore arrive at no Utopian conception of a single best of all 
possible combinations of my different goods : nor do I 
believe that it is feasible to measure in exact quantities how 
much of any of them a society either possesses or should 
seek to achieve. Nor, again, do I believe that they can all 
be resolved into, or caught up into, a single kind of good, 
which includes them all. On the contrary, I am sure they 
can and do conflict, and that there are many possible com- 
binations of them that may be equally worthy of respect, 
but no combination that is clearly and demonstrably superior 
to all others. Every society represents a limited ‘ pattern * 
of values, and into no possible society can all the good in all 
the patterns be squtezed. Nor can any society be made up 
wholly of ‘ goods * ; for every pattern involves disadvantages 
and an admixture of evils at the points where its goods come 
into conflict. 

I am also well aware that my choice of goods is not made 
in the cool clear light of eternity, but under the influence 
both of my day and generation and of my personal predilec- 
tions. Other men might choose very different goods : 
Hitler manifestly did. His goods, by my valuation, were 
largely evils ; but other men might choose different lists of 
goods, including some which I should admit to be goods, 


Scope and Method in Social and Political J'heory 

but should not think important enough to include, and 
perhaps others which I should regard as fictitious, though 
not positively evil. My # list of goods is both personal to me 
and drawn up under the influence of the scales of value 
which exist in the society I have been brought up in, or 
were made to seem important to me by my education and 
study. My list will not quite coincide with anyone else’s 
list ; nor do I expect anyone at all to find it even moderately 
satisfactory in a hundred years’ time — or indeed any 
Chinaman or Indian to find it so even now. It is my list ; 
but it is also a list which I hope and believe may be 
broadly satisfactory to a good number of my contemporaries 
in my own society and in other societies not too different 
from it to be capable of thinking together about social 

But how do I know that any of these things on my list are 
good ? Or rather, even ff I do know it, how can I set out to 
persuade anyone else that I am right ? I cannot, unless I 
can get him to agree to at any rate some common valuations. 
If I say ‘ I think we ought to give other people as much 
pleasure and as little pain as possible ’, and he says ‘ Why ? ’, 
I am at a loss. I can only try again, perhaps by saying ‘ I 
think every human being has a right to as much well-being 
and happiness as is consistent with the well-being and 
happiness of others ’, and if he again says 4 Why ? ’, there is 
no point in continuing the conversation. I could of course 
answer ‘ Because acting on that assumption conduces to 
biological survival ’ ; but I should be st>rry to do so, for if 
the argument convinced him we should be at worse cross- 
purposes than ever. I should then have to ask him ‘ Why 
do you think it is good to survive ? ’ and that is a question 
to which I do not myself know any answer. 

I know that it is good to be kind, tolerant, co-operative, 
comradely, creative, and so on because the experience of 
these things, and of their opposites, in myself and in others, 
induces in me the sense of goodness and badness ; and I am 
confirmed in these attributions of value by finding that I 
sh^re them with most of the people I like and respect. 

0 Essays in Social Theory 

Beyond that I cannot go. How important I think any 
particular one of them to be I can see to depend on the social 
pattern, and I can imagine, or discover in my studies, social 
patterns in which any of them is held in scant esteem. I 
draw a distinction, however, between not esteeming a thing 
and esteeming its opposite. Some of my goods may not be 
esteemed in a particular society because that society has 
chosen a pattern which finds no room for these goods but 
does find large scope for other things which I recognize as 
good. I do not therefore condemn it, even if it is not my 
‘ cup of tea \ I do condemn a society whose pattern puts 
into the forefront of esteem things I regard as evil ; but I 
should not hope to be able to convince a devout admirer of 
such a pattern that his goods are bads. It was of no more 
use to argue with Hitler than to ‘ appease 9 him. 

‘ Social Theory ', then, I regard as an essentially nor- 
mative study, of which the purpose is to tell people how to be 
socially good, and to aim at social goods and avoid social 
evils. It is not, however, for that reason a branch of Ethics ; 
for its concern is necessarily with the means to be employed 
in seeking social goods through social institutions. It has, 
therefore, a large technical field of its own to explore ; for it 
has to find out what sorts of social institution and what com- 
binations of social institutions will be most helpful towards 
the pursuit of social goods in the general environment 
and climate of values appertaining to the broad civilization 
to which the theorist belongs, and for which he formulates 
his doctrine. He I5an theorize effectively only within the 
limits set by his climate of values : he can try to modify or 
develop these values here or there, but I know of only one 
way — a sort of inversion — by which he can construct a 
radically different pattern. He must build with the bricks 
his civilization provides for him, though he can turn the 
bricks any way up he pleases — and though they are not 
really bricks, but living things, with a capacity for internal 
change and development as well as for change of relative 
position. However we describe them, they are the materials 
he must use, and it is his task to devise the best institutional 


Scope and Method in Social and Political theory 

instruments for moulding them to serve the advancement of 
practicable goods. 

TAis, it may be said, # is to bring Social Theory very close 
to the realm of Psychology as well as to that of Ethics ; for 
the materials the theorist must use are in men’s minds as 
well as in the external world in which men live. This is 
true ; and it is a matter of great contemporary importance 
to mark out, as far as we can, the respective fields of 
Psychology, Ethics, and Social Theory. Psychology in 
general is now 'generally regarded as a scientific study, using 
the methods of observation and, where it can, experiment to 
arrive at conclusions about what men (and animals) mentally 
are, and are capable of, without passing judgements of moral 
value, but not without taking note of the judgements of 
moral value which men (and animals ?) do actually make. 
It has a branch, Social Psychology, of which the field and the 
objectives are much lesS clearly determined. Social Psy- 
chology is most often understood as meaning the study of 
mental processes in their social aspects ; and, if this is what 
it is, there is evidently no line to be drawn between it and 
General Psychology, because most mental processes, if not 
all, have a social aspect and character. There is, however, 
a quite distinct ficl^, which Social Psychologists sometimes 
touch upon but seldom explore — the field of group de- 
liberation and action. In this field, though only individuals 
can think, the thinking individuals think and exchange 
thoughts with a view to acting not merely individually but 
together — and often not at all individually, but only as a 
group. The phenomena of such associated action and group 
action afford, I believe, no basis at all for the dangerous 
notion of a ‘ group mind ’ ; but they are none the less 
interesting and important. Social action is largely, though 
not exclusively, associative action or group action ; and the 
behaviour of men is undoubtedly different when they act in 
these ways from what it is when they act individually, how- 
ever much they may then act from social motives and under 
social influences. 

Jf we are concerned in Social Theory to consider how the 


, Essays in Social Theory 

institutional forms of society can be so shaped as to further 
social goods, it is of the greatest importance for us to under- 
stand institutional behaviour, not only as the behaviour of 
individuals acting under institutional influences, but also as 
the behaviour of individuals acting together through institu- 
tions — which I hope I may be allowed, without exposing 
myself to the charge of believing in a 4 group mind ’, to call 
for short the 4 behaviour 9 of the institutions themselves. It 
is important to know the differences between individual 
action and the action of committees, boards, cabinets, 
parliaments, soviets, and other representative or corporate 
agencies. This ought to be either Social Psychology, or a 
study on its own, or a part of some other recognized study ; 
but it is still largely an uncharted sea, despite the work of 
Graham Wallas, Robert Michels, Ostrogorsky, and a few 
others, and despite many hints about it scattered elsewhere. 
How far does it fall within the fielcf of Social Theory ? 

As field work it does not. It is not my job, but, in its 
political aspects, rather, my colleague’s, now that the former 
Chair of 4 Theory and Institutions 9 has been cut into two. 
It is, in effect, a vital part of the direct study of institutions, 
and one which has been hitherto badly neglected. It re- 
quires a technique of its own, taking much from Psychology 
and from Social Psychology in the other sense of the term, 
but devising its special apparatus of investigation appropriate 
to the study of group behaviour and especially to that 
characteristic form of such behaviour in which one man or 
a few act as the Executants of the decisions taken by a 
number, who are themselves often purporting to decide as 
the representatives of a still larger number. Study of this 
kind of 4 filtered * action, where the 4 filter ’ has a will of its 
own, is of peculiar importance in relation to the real efficacy 
of the mechanisms employed for advancing social goods ; 
and I, as a Social Theorist, should wish to be provided with 
data about it as full and as carefully observed and sorted as 
those which I look to General Psychology to provide me 
with in the field of individual behaviour. If these data are 
not forthcoming, I may have to go and look for them myself 


Scope and Method in Social and Political Theory 

as many a student has had to step outside his subject to enter 
fields essential to yield the data he needs, where no adequate 
provision has been made for specialist exploration. 

There is, of course, some provision. The field worker in 
Social Anthropology does regard it as very much his business 
to study institutional behaviour. But he does so mainly in 
the field of primitive society, whereas what I want, for my 
normative purpose, is primarily a study of such behaviour 
in the societies belonging to the pattern of civilization in 
which I live. 1 can pick up something from the ‘ Middle- 
town ’ type of study, but not nearly enough ; something also 
from the students of political institutions who have allowed 
themselves to be influenced by modern developments in 
Anthropology and Psychology. I should, I suppose, get 
even more from the Sociologists of the Mannheim school ; 
but they have not in fact done much about this particular 
problem, except in relatfon to the single issue of elites and 
leadership. Furthermore, the students of Political Institu- 
tions fail me because they are concentrating their attention 
on a particular type of institution, whereas my concern as a 
Social Theorist is with social institutions of every kind. 

This brings me at last to the other half of my office, as 
Professor of Politv as well as of Social , Theory. There 
are no doubt some in this University who think I ought to 
regard myself primarily as Professor of Political Theory, and 
to treat the 4 Social ’ aspect as a mere frill. I think I have 
made it clear that this is not my view of what I have been 
appointed to do. I am well aware tbat it is part of the 
traditional climate not only of Oxford, but of academic 
teaching and thinking in Great Britain, to make the State the 
point of focus for the consideration of men in their social 
relations. It is sometimes said that we derive this tradition 
from the Greeks ; but that, I think, is quite untrue. Polls 
does not mean 4 State ’ ; and in translating it as 4 State 5 we 
are twisting Greek thought to suit our own patterns of 
thinking. Our preoccupation with 4 the State ’ as the 
central conception in the theory of Society has, I think, 
arisen rather in this way. In the Middle Ages nobody 


Essays in Social Theory 

thought like that. Nobody could ; for all social thinking 
had to take account of two main points of focus, of which 
one was the Church and the other — not 4 the State ’ or even 
the Emperor, but the much more complex set of institutions 
embodying the secular powers. 4 The State ’ emerged as a 
point (or rather a series of points) for the concentration of 
these several powers ; and thereafter great battles were 
fought, in the realm of theory as well as in that of practical 
affairs, between Church and State. In the course of these 
battles the Church was worsted and broken ; and first in 
Machiavelli and again in Hobbes, Political Theory took 
shape as pre-eminently the Theory of the State. Social 
thinking was secularized, except among the Catholics, and 
Protestant determination to repel the 4 Kingdom of Dark- 
ness 1 led to an exclusive concentration on the secular State 
as the repository of Sovereignty and, as it took a more 
democratic turn, of the people’s will. The main course of 
Political Theory in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries 
reflected this attitude, which fitted in well not only with the 
theories of nationalism and national independence but also 
with the economico-social theories of laissez-faire. For the 
laissez-faire thinkers believed in an order of nature which 
would shape all things (except a few) for the best if nobody 
interfered with it ; and the only great exception they allowed 
was the preservation of 4 order ’, which involved the regulation 
of the rights of property. The State thus stood out, in its 
police capacity, as an isolated instance of the need for regula- 
tion in a world otherwise best left to the 4 government ’ of 
natural forces ; and accordingly 4 the State ’ called for a theory 
of its own quite apart from any other forms of human associa- 
tion or group action. Indeed, other forms were apt to be 
looked on with suspicion, as, potentially at least, conspiracies 
against the 4 natural order ’, and therefore to be kept down and 
either prevented or strictly circumscribed by the State as the 
guardian of that order. 

That world of laissez-faire is dead, and so is the concep- 
tion which accompanied it of the all but all-embracing 
natural order, which it was regarded as man’s affair to obey 

Scope and Method in Social and ± olitical Theory 

and not to mould to the service of his ends. The apartness 
of the State from all other forms of human grouping and 
association dies with these notions and historical conditions. 
Our century requires not a merely Political Theory, with the 
State as its central concept and the conflict between the 
Individual and the State as its central problem, but a wider 
Social Theory within which these concepts and relations can 
find their appropriate place. We have to start out, not from 
the contrasted ideas of the atomized individual and of the 
State, but from man in all his complex groupings and rela- 
tions, partially embodied in social institutions of many sorts 
and kinds, never # in balanced equilibrium, but always 
changing, so that the pattern of loyalties and of social 
behaviour changes with them . This brings us back to a much 
more real kind of man than the social atom of Hobbes or of 
Herbert Spencer. It brings us to men who are not isolated 
individuals, but members one of another in a host of different 
ways, and behave differently as different loyalties and 
associations come uppermost. It makes the stuff of society 
seem much more malleable for good and evil, and emphasizes 
the diversity of the influences by which society can be 
moulded, as well as the immense importance of all the 
mechanisms by mnns of which the moulding can be done. 
For this reason, it suggests to some the totalitarian concep- 
tion — the idea that everything must be captured for the 
State — because it makes plain that all forms of social 
organization, and not merely the political forms, are of vital 
importance in making a society what it is, and as driving 
forces in settling its future. But it also suggests anti- 
totalitarianism, which I call ‘ Pluralism \ as a recognition of 
the positive value of this diversity, and a repudiation of the 
Idealist notion that all values are ultimately aspects of a single 
value, which must therefore find embodiment in a universal 
institution, and not in the individual beings who alone have, 
in truth, the capacity to think, to feel, and to believe, and 
singlv or in association to express their thoughts, feelings, 
and beliefs in actions which further or obstruct well-being — 
thgir own and others. 


f Essays in Social Theory 

I have no time left to develop this theme now. It will he 
the central inspiration of everything I have to say as occupant 
of this Chair, except when I am acting as an expositor of 
other people’s views and of their historical development. It 
has obviously influenced the notions of scope and method 
which I have put forward in this lecture. I start with people, 
who are many, in their social relations, which are manifold ; 
and so I end — with the many, and not with the ‘ One \ 
MtlSAI. But my Zeus is men. 



Sociology and Politics in the Twentieth 
Century 1 

T he subject that I want to discuss in this essay is 
academic — in the sense, not that it has no practical 
importance, but that it has to do primarily with the 
nature and content of certain academic studies. It is a plea 
for an attempt to give a new shape to the study of the theory 
of society, by linking together, more closely than they are 
linked at present, the older disciplines of Political Science 
and Political Philosophy and the developing studies of 
social and political institutions, of Sociology, and of Social 
Psychology. This attempt also affects Economics ; for it in- 
volves a plea for the consideration of economic institutions, 
not as if they should be regarded in isolation from the rest of 
the social system, but in close relation to it, and for the 
development of a** institutional type of Social Economics, 
not as a pendant to ar essentially abstract Economic Theory, 
but as logically prior to the formulation of positive economic 

In the course of the nineteenth century, both Political 
and Economic Theory developed academically along lines 
which it is now easy to see as corresponding to a certain 
phase in the evolution of the more advanced Western 
Societies. Economics, replacing the older ‘ Political * 
Economy (though the old name was often kept) based itself 
on the assumption of a self-acting economic world which 
could be studied quite apart from the world of politics or from 
the rest of the social complex, the points at which this isolation 
plainly broke down being treated as examples of arbitrary 
interference with the free working of purely economic forces. 



Essays in Social Theory 

This method of isolation, founded originally on the concep- 
tion of an ‘ order of nature ’ which was usually identified 
with a ‘ law of God ’, lent itself readily to the formulation of 
abstract doctrines, held to be of universal application — that 

is, everywhere to underlie the actual working of economic 
institutions — though each actual economic system deviated 
from the ‘ normal * under the influence of non-economic 
interferences. This was the laissez-faire philosophy, which 
called upon legislators to reduce interference to the lowest 
possible point, in order to allow free play to the ‘ natural 
order \ This order, it was held with passion, would secure 
the best possible results for everybody, or at any rate the 
greatest economic well-being of the greatest number, be- 
cause either a beneficent God, or a beneficent Nature, had 
ordained that men’s pursuit of individual self-interest in 
economic affairs should lead to this surprising result. No 
doubt, this simple faith in the Virtues of economic self- 
interest underwent many modifications in the course of the 
nineteenth century : nor did even those who held it most 
strongly usually argue that God, or Nature, had made self- 
interest an equally beneficent force in non-economic affairs, 
or even in economic affairs that were regarded as falling 
outside the range of Economic Theory. No one, I think, 
argued that if a greedy parent gobbled up his children’s 
meals, either Society or the children would be the better for 

it. The economic sphere was defined as that of production 
for exchange, as ‘ business \ and not as covering the simpler 
‘ economy ’ of homo and family. Economic ‘ Science * was 
abstract in a double sense : it covered only some parts of the 
economic world, which was itself a ‘ world ’ abstracted from 
the social situation as a whole. 

Modifications there were ; and they were important. Rut 
they were thought of as involving exceptions to a general 
rule which was in no way invalidated by making them ; and 
the development of academic Economics has taken place, 
right up to the present time, within a general plan derived 
from laissez-faire notions. 

Political Theory, over the same period, has run a different 


Sociology and Politics in the Twentieth Century 

course, and one affected by many more complex currents. 
Its background has been the growth of States designed to 
serve the purposes of ipodern business, by upholding the 
property and other economic relations essential to its 
successful conduct on the principles of laissez-faire. This 
involves a primary contradiction ; for the State which is 
told that its duty is to keep out of the economic field in 
order to give free scope to natural forces, is commanded in 
one and the same breath to intervene in that field in order to 
sustain a certain system of economic relations. The police- 
man’s function is to repress not only the murderer and the 
wife-beater but also*the thief and the flouter of the 4 rights 
of property ’ ; and the legislator is called upon to pass laws 
for the regulation of property rights ( e.g . inheritance and 
taxation), as well as for that of non-economic relations 
between man and man. It is, of course, really plain enough 
that no State ever can keep out of the economic field, 
because no ordered society is possible without regulation of 
economic relations. What the advocates of laissez-faire really 
meant was that the State should enforce for them the under- 
lying economic relations which they assumed to be the basis of 
the natural economic order , and should, as nearly as possible, 
stop there. 

If these underlying economic relations were in truth part 
of the 4 order of nature ’, the less that was said about them 
the better. Accordingly, the Theory of the State (which was 
the nineteenth century’s narrow substitute for an embracing 
Social Theory) had almost nothing to Sffer by way of ex- 
planation of the State’s economic role. It was concerned 
with Politics, not with Economics ; and Politics, thus 
narrowed, fell into two main sections — Political Philosophy, 
which was mainly a branch of Ethics concerned with the 
4 principles of political obligation ’ and with the 4 rights ’ of 
men as citizens or subjects, and Political Science, which 
dealt with the problems of constitution-making, legislation, 
and public administration, and had to do with the discovery 
of the means to ends which were assumed to be already well 
enough known and defined. 


Essays in Social Theory 

This was one line of development, characteristic par- 
ticularly of Great Britain, and also of the United States, as 
far as the Americans developed ar^y characteristic Political 
Theory of their own. But against it was set the Political 
Theory of the Germans, which came out of Rousseau, via 
Kant and Fichte, to Hegel, and supplied the foundations 
for Marxism as well as for the Idealism of Green, Bradley, 
and Bosanquet and ultimately for the ‘ National Socialism ’ 
of Hitler and the Fascism of Mussolini and Gentile. This 
other line of development was developed ou’t of Rousseau’s 
conception of the General Will, and was transmuted for a 
time into the doctrine of representative, national sovereignty 
which found expression in the French Revolution, only to be 
restated as revolutionary Caesarism by Napoleon, and re- 
interpreted by Hegel as an absolutist, or metaphysical, theory 
of the quasi-divine supremacy and universality of the 
sovereign National State. In all forms of this theory, the 
economic order appeared, not as an independent natural 
order off which the State was to keep its interfering hands, 
but as a subordinate, ministerial order, to be directed to play 
its part in the service of the supreme national community, 
represented by the State. Thus, one group of thinkers — 
primarily Utilitarian in general theory — told the State to 
keep its hands off the economic structure, whereas another 

primarily Idealistic — though accepting the Utilitarian 
laws as applicable to the economic order on a lower plane, 
regarded the State as the final repository of authority, with 
the mission of betiding the economic order to serve the 
national ends of the sovereign community, to which the 
individual and his claims were by right to be wholly sub- 

Marxism stemmed off from this Idealistic philosophy. 
Marx and Engels and their successors were scornful of 
Utilitarianism, which they regarded as the characteristic 
philosophy of Capitalism in its phase of development based 
on the Industrial Revolution and on the advent of machine- 
power. As against the ‘ social atomism ’ of the Utilitarians, 
they accepted to the full the 1 mass ’ doctrine of 1789, but 

Sociology and Politics in the Twentieth Century 

sought foundations for it in the mass characteristics of the 
new wage-earning class. ‘ Workers of the world, unite * 
was an alternative version of the doctrine of the General 
Will, laying the emphasis on class-solidarity and denying the 
solidarity between classes which was affirmed in the philo- 
sophies of Fichte and of Hegel. In Marx, as much as in 
Hegel, the emphasis was put on solidarity — on the mass ; 
but the mass was differently defined, as a working class 
lapping over national frontiers to cover the whole world, 
and not as a nation embracing all classes but set in opposi- 
tion to other national communities. As against both these 
4 mass * doctrines, the Utilitarians and ‘ Liberals ’ were 
essentially individualists, whether they rested their indi- 
vidualism on the belief in a natural or a divine law or on an 
individualistic psychology (associationism), or on a naked 
dcvil-take-the-hindmost notion of the 1 struggle for exist- 
ence , and the ‘ survival of the fittest * — to survive. 

Between these rival philosophies of Society there were 
the widest possible differences ; but they had in common a 
certain intolerant all-or-nothing attitude. For the advocates 
of laissez-faire , the State was an institution to be written 
about in purely political terms, almost without reference to 
any economic issue. For the Marxists, it was an essentially 
economic institution, > the development of which political 
as distinct from economic forces could play only a secondary 
role, the broad course of historical evolution being governed, 
always and everywhere, by the evolution of the ‘ powers of 
production \ For the Idealists, from Hegel to the Nazis 
and Fascists, the soul of the nation was the governing factor, 
to which both the individual and the economic order were 
wholly subject. Not one of these philosophies was in a 
position to look objectively at the whoie complex of social 
forces ; for each was trying to interpret the whole social 
movement in terms of a preconceived idea, whether that 
idea was confessedly metaphysical or professedly material- 
istic or psychological. 

I do not mean, of course, that these currents of thought 
we*e unobstructed — only that, between them, they pretty 


Essays in Social Theory 

completely dominated both the academic and the political 
worlds. Idealism and Utilitarianism fought their academic 
battles : Marxism, kept outside the academic walls, did 
battle against both : materialism, of the sort associated with 
the development of natural science, had some foothold 
among the academics, but was still largely an outsider, its 
right to have any say in the formulation of political doctrines 
challenged by the professors of the ‘ Arts \ Meanwhile, the 
attempt to theorize in terms of the whole social complex, 
without either metaphysical or materialistic assumptions, 
was being made — by Saint-Simon and, on a grander scale, 
by Auguste Comte — but was still .entangled with the 
attempt to formulate a theory of history corresponding to a 
process of scientific advance of knowledge from realm to 
realm of nature, up to the supreme achievement of an all- 
embracing 4 Social Science \ Comtism, if we discount the 
later extravagances of its master in - the Politique positive and 
take account rather of the broad sweep of the Conrs de 
philosophic positive , was a grand conception, vitiated by the 
attempt to make the scientific study of the facts fit into a 
preconceived pattern of man’s mental development. Its 
virtue lay, not in its patterning, but in its insistence on the 
relativity of all man’s knowledge to man’s needs and aspira- 
tions, and in its transcendence, not only of theology (into a 
parody of which indeed its master sadly relapsed), but also 
of metaphysics and of the selection of data for study accord- 
ing to preconceived notions of value and relevance to tradi- 
tional disciplines. 

What came out of this early Sociology (out of Comte, 
rather than out of Spencer with his highly formalized con- 
ception of the evolutionary process), was the new, universally 
inquisitive, Sociology of Durkheim and the development of 
Social Anthropology as a scientific study. There was no 
ultimate reason why the less advanced, or the simpler, 
human Societies should come to be studied by this scientific 
method rather than the more complex Societies to which the 
sociologists themselves belonged. But there were valid, 
practical reasons ; not only that the former were smaller and 


Sociology and Politics in the Twentieth Century 

therefore easier to study in an all-round way, but also that 
the sociologist could approach them with many fewer pre- 
conceptions — above all, *that in studying them he did not 
and could not become obsessed with the State and Govern- 
ment to the exclusion of other aspects of social organization. 
This did not and could not happen, because in most of these 
Societies there simply was not any institution that could be 
realistically identified with the State as it exists in the ad- 
vanced Societies of the West, and because in none of them 
was it even remotely possible to isolate the economic 
elements from the rest of the social system. The very 
conception of an ‘ economic order either as separate and 
self-acting, or as paramount, or as subordinate to the 
political order, simply could not be applied : so integrated 
were the elements of the social situation and so non-existent 
any kind of behaviour that could be attributed to the 
4 economic man \ 

Accordingly these sociologists, as soon as they set out to 
study objectively at all, had to study Societies as wholes, and 
not as bundles of isolable 4 worlds ’ of activity. At first, 
the academic exponents of the rival recognized schools 
merely ignored their doings ; and even when they had to be 
taken some notice uf, the attempt was persisted in to keep 
their methods and discoveries from influencing the shape of 
the accepted economic studies. Sociology grew up almost 
as an outlaw — at best, as an inferior branch of study, of 
which the role was held to be confined to analysis and com- 
parison of the curious, barbaric habits of primitive peoples, 
and to have no relevance to Politics or Economics as studied 
in relation to the problems of the more advanced Societies. 
Gradually, no doubt, this attitude is being discredited ; but 
it still persists, because there now stands behind it both a 
powerful vested interest in the perpetuation of economic 
and political studies in the shapes which have become tradi- 
tional in University examinations and teaching, and a strong 
doctrinal reluctance to face the need for a form of social 
analysis which, applied to large and complex Societies, 
wilL inevitably be itself highly complex and destructive of 


Essays in Social Theory 

explanations based on giving primary importance to any single 
factor in the social situation. 

Great Britain, hitherto, has beey the most resistant of all 
the leading countries to the acceptance of Sociology in any 
form. The reasons for this are not far to seek. The German, 
Hegelian, conception of the State as a metaphysical entity 
universalizing the entire life of Society and of its members 
allows its professors, so to speak, to swallow Sociology 
whole ; for their ‘ State *, being not just the Government, 
but the representative of the entire comirfunity group, is 
much more like the complex which sociologists find in 
primitive Societies than it is like the limited State of Liberal 
or Utilitarian philosophy. Similarly, the Marxist can make 
a show of swallowing Sociology by interpreting all the social 
phenomena of primitive, as well as of advanced, Societies as 
finally explicable in economic terms. No such tour de force 
is possible for the ‘ liberal * believer in an independent 
economic order and in a political order which stands — 
subject to the exceptions tacitly assumed — apart from this 
economic order, as an autonomous expression of the political 
spirit in man. Sociology will not fit in with either Politics 
or Economics, as long as these two are conceived of as 
essentially separate and independent studies, each with its 
own laws. Yet so to conceive of them has been, for more 
than a century, an essential part of the British academic 
tradition — and indeed of the predominant British habit of 
thought in a far wider sense. 

Why, then, it rtiay well be asked, has Sociology made 
rapid progress in America, where the doctrine of the ‘ separa- 
tion of studies ’ is surely held quite as fervently as that of the 
‘ separation of powers ’ ? The answer is curious. It is that, 
whereas in Great Britain the advance of Sociology had to 
encounter the formidable opposition of a living and develop- 
ing study of Politics, both theoretical and institutional, 
centred upon the State and Government, in the United 
States it encountered only a void. For in America there has 
been no Political Theory, and but little attempt to theorize 
even about the institutional basis of Politics, except in Jthe 


Sociology and Politics in the Twentieth Century 

field of Law. There have been great American jurists, but 
not ope American political thinker of eminence since 
Jefferson and Madisoi* — a singular reflection on the 
quality of American politics and on their estimation in the 
American mind. 

This void, and the disrespect of politics, left the way 
clear in the United States for objective studies of social 
phenomena which did not have to be classified as either 
4 political * or ‘ economic \ The structure of American 
Society threw into prominence the fact that there existed a 
vast number of social structures and events which fell within 
the scope neither of Politics nor of Economics as these two 
were currently conceived ; and the sociological approach 
provided a convenient method for grouping and studying 
these phenomena with some attempt at system and co- 
ordination of effort. As soon as the attempt was made at all, 
it became evident that American conditions were particularly 
suitable for it ; for the Americans, more easily than any 
other people, could command the large resources needed for 
the objective study of huge masses of social facts, such as 
exist in populous and highly differentiated modern Societies. 
Indeed, the very abundance of resources led, as it was 
bound to do, to a considerable waste of effort, through 
the unnecessary elaboration of programmes of sociological 
investigation. Theory ran the risk of being submerged in 
a torrent of unanalysed and, for very complexity, unanalys- 
able facts. I remember a well-known sociologist telling me 
that he thought it would take him, with a sufficient team of 
helpers, at least thirty years to make a close enough study of 
one middle-sized town to be in a position to reach any con- 
clusions at all. 

That, no doubt, was midsummer madness ; and in 
practice a good many conclusions have been reached with- 
out highly elaborate apparatus (Mr. and Mrs. Lynd’s 
Middletozvn studies furnish an obvious example). Gradually, 
it is coming to be better recognized that, as Durkheim 
pointed out long ago, not every fact that has a social aspect 
is a relevant 4 social fact \ or needs to be studied before any 


Essays in Social Theory 

conclusions can be arrived at. The selection of the more 
relevant ‘ social facts ’ is an essential part of the sociologist’s 
task ; and ‘ sampling ’, though jit has its dangers, has 
abundantly proved its usefulness in many fields. The real 
obstacle to the advance of sociological studies in this country 
has been, not paucity of resources, but the obstruction of 
preconceived ideas about the separateness of the social 
studies and about the pre-eminence of Politics (‘ Theory of 
the State ’ and ‘ Public Administration ’) and Economics as 
specialized studies hardly thought of as falling within a 
common group. 

The sociological method is, of course, largely statistical. 
It studies social phenomena largely by counting instances, 
observing correlations, and thus building up a body of 
knowledge about social behaviour where numbers are in- 
volved. It discovers neither how a particular individual 
behaves — save, incidentally, in tKe process of collecting its 
material — nor why men, in a preponderant number of 
instances, behave in particular ways. It may succeed in 
predicting how most people, or enough people to determine 
the main course of events, will behave in a particular situa- 
tion ; but it cannot tell how any single individual will be- 
have. That is not its job. It is, however, the job of the 
Social Psychologist, if not to predict the behaviour of 
particular individuals, at all events to try to find out why 
individuals behave as they do, when they are acting socially 
— in the sense of acting as members of social groups or 
communities, or as' reacting to what is expected of them in 
relation to social institutions with which they are associated 
in one way or another. The fields of Sociology and Social 
Psychology overlap : they have to study many of the same 
phenomena, but from different points of view. The sociolo- 
gist proper stops at the fact, without establishing the motive, 
even if it can be established : the social psychologist studies 
the fact in order to throw light upon the motive that lies 
behind it. The sociologist is concerned with the social 
consequences which follow from the behaviour of numbers 
of individuals who are, in some respect, similarly placed : 


Sociology and Politics in the Twentieth Cefttury 

the social psychologist has to do rather with the causes 
that Uad to the observed statistical regularities in social 
behaviour — or of coursefto irregularities, where they appear. 

The nineteenth century, before its end, had succeeded in 
laying sound foundations for the development of socio- 
logical method, though it had not advanced far in their use. 
In Social Psychology, it did not lay even the foundations. 
It could not ; for the necessary data did not exist, even in an 
unanalysed stat*\ It was still at the stage of advancing a 
priori theories — for example, about the * laws of social 
imitation * (Tarde). Psychology as a general study had to 
find firm foundations in experimentation before Social 
Psychology could begin to develop along fruitful lines, save 
to a very limited extent. Social Psychology has, indeed, 
hardly yet found its feet ; for the modern Psychologists, 
having made the discovery that all behaviour is social be- 
haviour, have been inclined to re-absorb Social into General 
Psychology, and have so far paid scant attention to a set of 
problems which their predecessors, with a very defective 
equipment, had at any rate begun tentatively to explore. 
This set of problems can be most simply stated in the form 
of a question : How, and why, do men behave differently 
when they are acting not solely on their own behalf, but 
jointly with others, as members or subjects of a group or 
institution to which they feel some sentiment of loyalty or 
sense of obligation ? The answer to this question involves, 
among other things, the study of crojvds, pioneered by 
Gustave Le Bon. But it involves even more the study of 
committees and associations of every sort and kind, of the 
behaviour of officials acting in their official capacities, of 
fathers or of housewives acting as representatives of families 
or of households, of members of Parliaments, Town Councils, 
Soviets, Churches, Tradd Unions, and Co-operative Societies, 
and oFthe informal assoc iations which arise among neigh- 
bours, among fellow-nationals, or on a still wider scale in 
international groupings. All these fields, despite "some 
pioneering work (Graham Wallas, Robert Michels, Tonnies, 
Miss Tollett, for example), remain mainly unexplored, and 


* Essays in Social Theory 

constitute the true sphere of Social Psychology as a study 
closely cognate to Sociology but distinct from it because the 
centre of attention is in the sourcen of individual behaviour 
rather than in the mass results which ensue. 

Or rather, the centre of attention is partly in the social 
behaviour of individuals as influenced by institutional claims 
and loyalties, and partly in the ‘ behaviour ’ of the institu- 
tions themselves. Some, no doubt, will regard it as a misuse 
of language to speak of ‘ behaviour ’ in this latter connec- 
tion ; but what other diction is one to use ? If, say, the New 
Statesman or The Times comes out with a leading article 
which represents the views, not of "any one individual 
speaking for himself, but of one or more writers trying to 
set down ‘ the policy of the paper \ the 4 behaviour * in 
question is not that of any single individual only, or even 
that of all the individuals who contributed to the formulation 
of the article, but that of the paper. Or again, if a Trade 
Union decides to strike, or to refer a dispute to arbitration, 
the decision is not simply that of the individuals who vote 
upon it, but also, in a real sense, that of the Union as a 
quasi-corporate body. The same might be said of actions 
taken by Parliaments, Churches, and countless other bodies. 

Manifestly, it is of great social importance to study the 
ways in which collective, as well as individual, actions and 
decisions are arrived at ; and if this study is not Social 
Psychology, I do not know what it is. I do, however, know 
that it is apt to get lost sight of when the attempt is made to 
merge Social into (General Psychology, and also that, when 
it is left to be handled by non-psychologists ( e.g . Pareto) the 
most curious conclusions are apt to be reached. Call it, if 
you will, a border-line subject between Sociology and 
Psychology : call it anything you please, but do not omit to 
mark its importance and to make sure that it does get studied 
in such a way as to take account of the development of 
modern Psychology. 

It is a commonplace nowadays to say that the social 
theorizing of the nineteenth century was unduly rationalistic, 
in the sense that it assumed men to be moved in social 


Sociology and Politics in the Twentieth Century 

situations by rational, and rationally analysable, motives, 
much # more than most people in the twentieth century 
believe them to be. This rationalistic approach was indeed 
made the easier by specialization ; for the specialist, ab- 
stracting for separate study a particular part of the whole 
social complex, could easily make it an element in his 
abstraction to discard such motives as were irrational from 
the standpoint of his special study. I suppose no one ever 
believed that m^n, in their economic activities, acted wholly 
as ‘ the economic man ’ was deemed to act ; but the eco- 
nomists felt free to discard from their universe of discourse 
the effects of motives'which they could not treat as economic- 
ally rational ; and the political thinkers, albeit less whole- 
heartedly, tended to handle the ‘ citizen ’ in the same fashion, 
exclusively as a rationally political animal. “ The practical 
politician, of course, did # not do this, any more than the 
practical business man did - or what would have become 
of business advertising and of political propaganda and 
electioneering rhetoric ? It was, however, in the main left 
to the twentieth century to construct a theory of social 
irrationality, and openly, as well as deliberately, to base 
propaganda upon it, with the powerful aid both of modern 
Psychology and ot the new material techniques of mass- 
diffusion at the comn nd of advertisers and adventurers in 
every social field. 

All these developments, from Psychology to Anthropology 
and from the new statistical techniques to the new study of 
language in its social relations; call for an altered approach 
to the Social Studies. They require, not less specialization, 
but less isolation of specialized studies from the general study 
of Society as a whole. What this means in practice is that, 
in the first place, the specialist himself stands in greater 
need of a tolerable basic equipment in fields adjoining his 
own, and ' also of a broader general foundation for his 
specialist work, and in the second place that, in teaching 
Social' Studies to students who are not intending to become 
academic specialists, but perhaps Civil Servants or ad- 
ministrators of some other sort, or business men, we should 


Essays in Social Theory 

beware of turning out inferior specialists, whose knowledge 
is limited to a single part of the field, and should pay much 
more attention than is usually paid to helping them towards 
a concrete vision of the entire social complex. 

That this is no easy thing to achieve I am well aware ; 
for specialism breeds specialism, not least in the academic 
world. The teacher can teach on!v what he has learnt ; 
and, if his training has been in a narrow field, he will natur- 
ally tend to perpetuate his kind and will ‘ funk * tackling the 
broader issues in relation to which he is conscious of being 
only an amateur at best. Academic studies have a strong 
self-perpetuating tendency, which may be a source of 
strength as long as their structure is in harmony with con- 
temporary needs, so that the various specialisms are designed 
to answer the questions which most need answering. If, 
however, the conditions change, so as to bring up new 
questions which are unanswerable within the limitations of 
the existing structure of academic ‘ subjects \ strength turns 
to weakness, and new 1 subjects ’ have to fight hard for 
recognition, not only because their importance is not seen, 
but even more because there is no supply of competent 
teachers of them. Yet, in the end, the adaptations are bound 
to be made, if the academic world is to be of any use in the 
social field ; and it is necessary to take some risks of ill- 
equipped teaching in order to start the ball rolling in the 
right direction. 

3 ° 


The Teaching of Social Studies in 
British Universities 1 

S ocial studies (or Social Sciences, as they are called in 
a number of British Universities) have been but slowly 
coming into their own in British higher education 
during the past quarter of a century, and in most Univer- 
sities the teaching of them has still a long way to go. There 
is, moreover, still great uncertainty about the right ways of 
approaching them, as well as about their definition as a 
group and their relation tp other subjects of study. A good 
many subjects can be studied in radically different ways, so 
as to put the emphasis either on their purely technical 
content or on their interrelation with other subjects ; and 
when interrelations are stressed there are, in many cases, 
alternative possible emphases and groupings. 

It is simplest to begin with the more central subjects, 
and to come back later to those which involve the greater 

Economics in Relation to other Social Studies 

In nearly all British Universities much more attention is 
given to Economics than to any other branch of the Social 
Studies — unless History, which I am leaving out of con- 
sideration, is brought in. The recognition of Economics as 
an academic subject goes back to the early nineteenth 
century, though for a long time very little was done to pro- 
vide for teaching it. Enough was done to give it a long lead 
over the other specifically social subjects, except Juris- 
prudence, which was treated purely as a lawyer’s subject, 
and Political Philosophy, which was treated essentially as a 
branch of Philosophy and was taught largely from Plato and 

3 1 

Essays in Social Theory 

in very close relation to Morals. The effect of this was that 
Economics appeared by itself as a claimant for fuller academic 
recognition, because it could not be hitched on, except in a 
very elementary form, to any existing course, or provided 
for by any existing faculty. Thus the economists were able 
gradually to achieve recognition in most Universities by 
securing the institution of separate degree courses in 
Economics. Some of these courses contained auxiliary 
non-economic social subjects, compulsory or optional ; but 
in nearly all cases Economics came to be the central point of 
focus. The exception was at Oxford, where the University 
began with a combined Diploma in Economics and Political 
Science (which still exists), and then, after the first world 
war, set up the Honours School of Philosophy, Politics, and 
Economics, known as ‘ Modern Greats insisting that all 
students should work in all three branches, but with freedom 
to work more intensively in one than in another if they so 

I believe strongly in this system, or in something akin to 
it, as against that of the degree course in Economics only 
that has come to prevail elsewhere. I take this view because 
I feel sure there is a great need for men and women able to 
consider Economics and Politics and other branches of the 
Social Studies from a wider standpoint than can be achieved 
by intensive study of one branch alone. Two objections are 
commonly made. The first is that the combined course is 
too crowded and confusing for any except for the better 
students. Up to a point I agree. ‘ Modern Greats * is not 
a suitable course for inferior students ; but it would not be 
difficult to design a course less ambitious, but still pre- 
serving something of the synoptic quality that I value — for 
example, a course based on Economics and Politics, without 
Philosophy as a specific third branch. I believe that such a 
course would be educationally much more satisfactory than 
a degree course in Economics alone for almost all students, 
provided that the two branches were both treated at the same 
standard, and that opportunity to work more intensively at 
either was effectively provided. 


The Teaching of Social Studies in British Universities 

Specialists and Co-ordination 

The second objection commonly advanced is that a 
course containing more than one major subject does not 
give the student a chance of acquiring an adequate pro- 
fessional qualification. If what is meant is that the student 
will not usually emerge able to teach the subject, or to write 
books about it, or to take up at once a research post in it, I 
agree. But should this be the purpose of a first degree 
course ? I think not. A man or woman who intends to do 
any of these things should expect to need at least one post- 
graduate year of study ; and I hold that the proper place 
for a degree in Economics, or Politics, or in any other 
specific single subject is at the post-graduate stage, after the 
foundations for a wider synoptic view have been well and 
truly laid. 

This question is of high practical importance ; for it 
conditions the growth of university organization, as well as 
of the curriculum. I wish to see the development of depart- 
ments or faculties of Social Studies, with sub-faculties 
or sub-departments within them for Economics, Politics, 
Sociology, and other specialized studies, rather than a 
development of separate faculties, or the maintenance of a 
separate Economics faculty, with the other Social Studies 
dispersed between Philosophy, History, Geography, Psy- 
chology, Law, and a number of other faculties. There is, 
however, a problem to be solved where so-called Social 
Science faculties or departments have bedi developed mainly 
with a view not to regular degree courses, but rather to the 
training of social workers in diploma and certificate courses, 
and have accordingly been given a marked ‘ practical * bent. I 
do not at all mean that I regard such courses as unimportant ; 
but they are not altogether easy to combine in one and the 
same organization with ordinary undergraduate courses, and 
to a substantial extent, because of their wider range of 
subjects, including practical work, their academic standard 
is bound in some fields to be lower than that of regular 
honours degrees. In Oxford we provide for the care of 


Essays in Social Theory 

students in Social Training courses under a delegacy which 
is distinct from the faculty of Social Studies, but make the 
faculty, and not the delegacy, responsible for the conduct of 
the examinations, except in respect of practical training. This 
seems to work well : where Social Studies departments have 
been hitherto concerned mainly with social training, a good 
deal of reorganization may be necessary in order to consti- 
tute the kind of all-round Social Studies department or 
faculty that I have in mind. 

Economics and Statistics 

The teaching of Economics has been changing rapidly in 
recent years. A somewhat arid fashion for abstract mathe- 
matical Economics (a la Pareto) has been giving way to much 
more realistic methods of study, with 4 Applied Economics * 
ousting pure theory from its central position, and with a 
rapidly increasing use of statistical methods wherever they 
can be invoked. This change, I am sure, is wholly salutary. 
It has led, first at Oxford and now at Cambridge, to the 
development of Institutes of Statistics and Applied Eco- 
nomics which have grown less as centres for the study of 
statistical method as such than as places for the study of 
economic and social data with the aid of statistical techniques. 
The London School of Economics, under Professor Bowley, 
was, of course, the great pioneer in this field. 

It is, however, one of the results of the more advanced 
state of Economics than of the other Social Studies in the 
British Universities that the rapid progress of Statistics has 
been tied much more closely to economic data than to social 
data of other kinds. There has been very little statistical 
work, or teaching in Statistics, as related to either Politics or 
Sociology. Yet Statistics can be fully as useful in these 
fields, and statistical methods are needed in them in order to 
combat tendencies towards untested generalization. This 
defect is, however, irremediable except by the better 
development of Politics and Sociology as well-recognized 
subjects of University study. The exception is to be found 
in Demography, in the few Universities in which it has been 


The Teaching of Social Studies in British Universities 

seriously taken up ; for in this field statistical methods are of 
course indispensable, and have been very effectively applied 
(for example, at Liverpool and at Bristol, as well as at the 
London School of Economics). 

One great advantage at present possessed by the economist 
over other social students is that he has at command a much 
greater mass of already digested quantitative data for analysis. 
In other fields, the data have largely still to be collected and 
reduced to order, before the subjects can be effectively 
studied in their quantitative aspects at the undergraduate 
level. Accordingly, whereas in Economics there is no 
obstacle to a steady -expansion of undergraduate teaching 
along the right lines, in Politics and Sociology the most 
urgent need is for more research, in order to put more 
usable material at the disposal of teachers and students. 
For example, it is highly desirable that much more should 
be done by Universities to follow up the methods of Social 
Survey pioneered by London, Liverpool, Bristol, Birming- 
ham, and a few other Universities, and to develop such 
survey work, in the social and political as well as in the 
economic field, as a regular part of University activity. This, 
of course, involves close collaboration with the Geography 
faculty, if it is organized apart from the Social Studies 

The Teaching of Politics 

About Economics it does not seem necessary to say a 
great deal for the purposes of this survey, because for the 
most part what is needed is the carrying further of realistic 
tendencies which are rapidly gaining ground. In other 
branches, on the other hand, essentially new departures need 
to be made. In most Universities, the teaching of Politics 
is still in a most unsatisfactory state. In my view, Politics 
can be a satisfactory subject of study only if a proper balance 
is preserved between its theoretical and its institutional 
aspects. The student should emerge from his course with, 
on the one hand, some real understanding of the great basic 
issues which have dominated high thinking about Politics 


Essays in Social Theory 

from Ancient Greece to the present day, and, on the other, 
some grasp of the ways in which institutions actually work. 
In other words, he should study both Political Theory 
(including its relations to Morals and to Economics) and also 
Government and Public Administration (including Local 
Government). He should, in addition, study both these 
groups of subjects against a backgroui d of some historical 
knowledge, at least of a particular period ; and he should not 
confine himself to ‘ Politics 9 in the narrower sense, but 
should take into account forms of social structure standing 
outside the framework of Government, such as Churches, 
Trade Unions, forms of business structure, and the various 
shapes of 4 community 5 in town and country. 

This, I am aware, brings Social and Political Theory, as 
I conceive it, very close to Sociology, to which I shall come 
presently. For the moment, what I am seeking to insist on 
is that each University ought to have, parallel to its Economics 
department, or sub-faculty, a department or sub-faculty of 
Politics covering the range of subjects I have just attempted 
to define, and organized as a part of its Social Studies 
faculty, and not dispersed between its faculties of History 
and Philosophy, as is all too apt to be at present the case. 
I am sure that such a dispersal makes against the effective 
teaching of Politics, because it divorces the study of the 
theory from that of the institutions and is all too apt to 
reduce the latter to a mere memorizing of facts, without any 
real understanding of them, and the former to a merely 
abstract study of tameless ‘ principles ’, wholly out of rela- 
tion to the objective situation of any particular time or place. 
It is as absurd to divorce Political Theory from Political 
Institutions or from Public Administration as it would be to 
divorce Economic Theory from Applied Economics. 


This brings me to the very difficult question of the 
teaching of Sociology. About this, the first thing I want to 
say is that we should once and for all give up the bad habit 
of calling by the name ‘ Sociology ’ all the odds and ends of 


The Teaching of Social Studies in British Universities 

Social Studies that we cannot conveniently bring under any 
main he^id. Sociology is not a residue, after Economics and 
Politics and Demography and Law and Geography and 
Social Psychology have been taken away. It is a general 
study of social organization, designed to lay bare and to 
analyse the interrelations of the various ways in which men 
become organized in social groups of every sort and kind, 
from the family to the most embracing social groups that 
possess the beginnings of an organized existence. It differs 
from Social Psychology in that its emphasis is on organiza- 
tion , on external facts, rather than on what mental con- 
comitants underlie organization. It differs from Politics, in 
that it is concerned with the broad facts of social organiza- 
tion, rather than with men’s theories about them, or with 
the specifically political aspects of them. It differs from 
Economics, in that it is concerned with the foundations 
of social existence, which the economist usually takes for 
granted. In method it is a fact-collecting, fact-analysing 
study, arriving at generalizations by the analysis and com- 
parison of social facts, some of which it can take ready-made 
from other Social Studies, but many of which it must collect 
and digest for itself It can learn much from the methods 
which Cultural Anthropology has applied chiefly to the study 
of the simpler societies ot men : its business is at least equally, 
and in practice more, with the more complex modern societies. 

Some day, Sociology may come to loom as large here as 
it does in the United States. But that time is not yet. For 
the present, Universities in Great Britain must advance 
slowly and tentatively along this line, for the simple reason 
that there is hardly anyone available, or being trained, to 
teach it. Except at the London School under Professor 
Ginsberg, Sociology, in the sense here given to the word, is 
hardly being taught at all. At Oxford we are just making a 
few tentative beginnings, but only to the extent of giving 
some scope for the use of sociological knowledge in our new 
post-graduate degree in Politics, and to a much smaller 
extent in ‘ Modern Greats \ I should like to go faster, 
but- I would sooner go very slow than have the subject 


Essays in Social Theory 

inefficiently taught. There are, moreover, advantages in 
linking it closely to Social and Political Theory® at the 
present stage, and thus to the whole group of Philosophy, 
Politics, and Economics. We shall get a better standard 
thus, than if we started Sociology off here and now on its 
own quite separate voyage. It still needs a convoy, if it is 
to have a fair chance of reaching port. And we must work 
out its relations to Anthropology, particularly in connection 
with such special problems as the teaching of colonial 

Social Psychology 

Social Psychology presents a different problem. We 
badly need some of it in the Social Studies, at more than one 
level. We need it as an element in all courses designed for 
the training of social workers, in # the broadest sense of the 
term — from housing managers and hospital almoners to 
industrial welfare workers and 4 case ’ workers of every sort 
and kind, including civil and local government servants as 
well as workers for voluntary bodies. Teachers need it, 
of course — but that is another story. We need it too, 
in rather a different way, for students of Economics, or 
of Politics, or of Sociology, as primarily academic subjects. 
A good many psychologists, however, are very unwilling to 
believe that Social Psychology can usefully be taught except 
on a foundation laid by a fairly advanced study of General 
Psychology ; and ^for this, except perhaps as an optional 
subject in some courses, we simply cannot find room in our 
already overcrowded curriculum. I can only say that, in my 
experience, there are psychologists who can very effectively 
teach Social Psychology to non-specialists, with excellent 
effects on their approach to the Social Studies as a whole — 
and admit that probably such teachers are scarce, though 
not so desperately scarce as good sociologists. 

Moral Philosophy 

Then there is the question of Moral Philosophy, or 
Ethics, which is naturally taught mainly as a branch" of 


The Teaching of Social Studies in British Universities 

Philosophy, and has often had Political Philosophy attached 
to it, often in a somewhat inferior position. Such an 
arrangement obviously fai)s to meet the needs of students 
whose primary interest is in Politics : for such students, as 
we have seen, Social and Political Theory has to be studied 
on its own, as a main subject, in close connection with 
Political Institutions. It is, however, not satisfactory either 
to leave out Moral Philosophy, or to reverse the traditional 
arrangement by treating it as a branch of Social and Political 
Theory. Nor is it desirable to take the teaching of it out of 
the hands of the philosophers. In most cases, probably the 
best solution is to arrange for courses in Moral Philosophy 
for the purposes of Social Studies to be conducted by 
teachers from the Philosophy faculty ; and it may be 
necessary to do this at two different levels, one for honours 
degree students and the other, treating the subject rather less 
theoretically, for those who need it in connection with 
courses of training in social work. 

Law as a Social Study 

Law presents yet another problem. A student who sets 
out to understand the working of either Politics or Economics 
must have some understanding of the legal foundations of 
society. A part of this, where law touches custom, he can 
get through Sociology — if he gets Sociology at all ; another 
part he will get through the study of Political Institutions, 
which must cover the juridical aspect. He needs, however, 
rather more than he usually gets ; and for the most part the 
lawyers — even the academic lawyers — are quite unable to 
give it him. They are too exclusively lawyers to meet his 
needs. Industrial Law he may indeed get, if he wants it, 
as a specialist subject ; and in a few Universities he can get 
what he is likely to want in the field of International Law. 
But the study of the interrelations of Law and Politics, say 
from Bentham to the present day — where, in most Uni- 
versities, is he to get that ? He will get it, I feel sure, only 
if it is specially provided for within the orbit of the Social 


Essays in Social Theory 

Human Geography 

To Geography I have made one or two incidental refer- 
ences already. It is, of its nature, a marginal subject. 
Physical Geography is not a Social Study, though it is of 
course important in many aspects for the Social Studies. 
Human Geography, on the other han 1, is already in close 
contact with the Social Studies, and is being brought closer 
by the necessity of training town and country planners, as 
well as by the development of Social Survey work in other 
aspects. I want Geography Schools to become increasingly 
homes of Human Geography ; and, for this reason, 1 do not 
wish to see Social Studies faculties appointing geographers 
of their own. As in the case of Anthropology, the need here 
is for closer working arrangements between the Social 
Studies and the Geography departments, with the geo- 
graphical teaching needed by students in the former pro- 
vided in the Geography department, wherever such a 
department exists. But it must be effectively provided 
for — not merely left to be done by someone who is not really 
interested in it in such time as he can spare. 

Social and Economic History 

I do not propose to range over any further subjects, 
except for a particular few words about History in relation 
to the Social Studies. Economic and Social History (it is 
important to link the two aspects closely together) is among 
the least provided # for of all the older respectable disciplines 
that fall within the Social Studies range. This is partly 
because a good many historians still look down on it, either 
claiming that it ought to be taught as a part of General 
History (and usually therewith doing very little to teach it), 
or openly sniffing at it. Indeed the whole subject is very 
liable to fall between two stools, with the economists fully 
as neglectful or as sniffy as the historians. It is not within 
the scope of this survey to discuss its importance as a special- 
ized branch of History ; bi|| I am quite sure that the more 
realistic ways in which Economics is now being taughrcall 


The Teaching of Social Studies in British Universities 

imperatively for historical background. As long as the 
economist was content to move in a realm of abstract and 
quite unrealistic necessity, it is easy to see why he had no 
use for Economic History. As soon as he begins to base his 
study on facts, past facts, as well as present, leap into im- 
portance for him — or would, if he only knew them. 

Equally Social History is indispensable for the students of 
Politics and of Sociology — and indeed, Economic History 
as well. There ought to be much more provision for the 
teaching of these subjects in Social Studies faculties — for 
the historians have shown, in most Universities, that they 
cannot or will not do what is needed. Of course I include 
World, and not purely British, Economic and Social 
History : the subject, where it is taught, is often handled 
to-day with much too insular an approach. 

History as a Social Si*udy 

As for General History teaching in relation to Social 
Studies, we have found in Oxford to an increasing extent 
that the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, 
for social students, can be better handled by teachers who 
combine it with some aspects of Politics (usually the institu- 
tional) than by historians mainly engaged in teaching History 
specialists. The more istorical background the student of 
Politics can get, the better ; but on the whole I think it 
needs fitting in closely with the study of Political Institutions, 
rather than teaching as an entirely separate subject. 

Types of Students and Student- Interests 

This survey has of necessity dealt in very broad general- 
izations. There are so many different groups of students 
and so many varying university set-ups to be borne in mind 
that, in a short study covering so enormous a field, nothing 
else is possible. The students of whom I have most ex- 
perience fall, broadly, into four groups. I mention this here, 
because I realize that what I have written may have been 
influenced unduly by my sp^al interests in these groups, 
and that there may be other groups, in other Universities, 

4 * 

Essays in Social Theory 

of whom I have taken too little account. These four groups 
are : % 

1. Ordinary undergraduate students taking Honours 
degree courses and intending to go thereafter into the 
Civil Service, or into business, or occasionally into 
journalism or local government work, or, rather more 
often, into secondary school teaching. 

2. Undergraduate or just graduated students preparing 
themselves either for academic work in the Social 
Studies (intra- or extra-mural), or for various kinds of 
research posts. 

3. Students, graduate or undergraduate, or sometimes, 
when older, technically neither, taking Diploma or 
Certificate courses, usually with a view to full-time 
social work, public or private. 

4. Students at Ruskin College. or the Catholic Workers’ 
College, usually taking the University Diploma in 
Economics and Political Science, and intending either 
to return to their previous jobs or to get positions in 
the working-class movement or in some form of social 
administration, or in adult education. 

Of these four groups, the last of which is peculiar to 
Oxford, I have had the first and third mainly in mind 
in this survey. The second, I fully realize, is of primary 
importance because the maintenance and development of 
academic standards depend upon it. All the same, it is 
broadly true that, if we can get the right provision made for 
the first and third groups, it should not be difficult, in the 
bigger Universities, to provide adequately for the second. 
This, however, is not the case where Social Studies depart- 
ments are small ; and in such cases the student will probably 
do best to seek his post-graduate preparation at a larger 


I have said nothing by way of suggesting any definite 
curriculum because I feel s^re that in this respect a wide 
variety is desirable. Naturally, where a degree course is 


The Teaching of Social Studies in British Uniwersities 

designed to cover both Economics and Politics and perhaps 
some grounding in Philosophy as well, the main subjects 
define themselves without much room for controversy. The 
student must at any rate take Economic Theory, Economic 
Organization (or Applied Economics), Social and Political 
Theory, and Political Institutions, if Philosophy is in- 
cluded, Logic or Theory of Knowledge (or General Philosophy 
from Descartes, or some such course) and Moral Philosophy. 
This does not leave room for much more ; and personally I 
favour a wide range of options from which one or two further 
subjects can be chosen at will. I do not think that, in such 
a course, either Sociology, or Statistics, or Economic and 
Social History should necessarily be a compulsory subject, 
though each has claims and all should of course be included 
within the range of options. If Philosophy is dropped out, 
I should favour a compulsory paper on the History of the 
Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, with distinct 
political and economico - social sections, questions to be 
answered from both. Statistics might also be made com- 
pulsory ; but I am doubtful, because it is highly deterrent 
to a few good students who have wholly failed to learn even 
elementary Mathematics at school. There is quite as much 
to be said in favour of a compulsory paper on the Social 
Relations of Science, historically treated, if only the right 
persons can be found to teach it. But it may be best to 
leave both these subjects, with Sociology, as options. In 
any case, Moral Philosophy, where it is not made a com- 
pulsory subject, should be included among the options. 

These suggestions rest on the assumption that my prefer- 
ence for a mixed, as against a specialized, first degree course 
isfcccepted. Where it is not, and a first degree in Economics 
alone is made available, I am quite clear that both Statistics 
and Economic History ought to be compulsory subjects, and 
that every student ought to take, from a list of options, at 
least one definitely not economic subject. If a specialized 
first degree in Politics is offered, it ought to include, besides 
Political Theory and Political ^stitutions, papers on Public 
Administration (including Local Government), Sociology, 


Essays in Social Theory 

and a period of Modern History, besides a range of options 
including Law, International Affairs, Social Psychology, 
Human Geography, and a number of other ‘ marginal ’ 
subjects. A first degree in Sociology (but I hope none will 
be set up just yet, beyond such as already exist) should 
clearly include some Economics, with a realistic bias, a 
broad course of Economic and Social History, Social and 
Political Theory, and, of course, some Anthropology and 
Social Psychology. 

The First Year 

Where specialized first degrees are offered, even more 
than where the course is mixed, problems arise over the best 
use of the student’s first year. For students of good honours 
quality nothing can be more disastrous than a first year 
spent, or largely spent, in doing work at a pass standard, 
before starting on the honours course. 

The situation is not, however, the same for pass-men, or 
for those whose quality is still unknown. There is, I am 
sure, a great deal to be said for making the first year at the 
University, at any rate for ‘ Arts ’ students (including those 
in the Social Studies) a period not of study for any specific, 
or even mixed, degree course, but rather a general introduc- 
tion to the problems of the modern world. This, however, 
will not work unless such a course is both carefully designed, 
by specialists from a number of fields working together, and 
taught by really good teachers at a high standard. Without 
this, it will be ‘ guff ’ ; and nothing could be worse. Rightly 
planned and executed, it could be the University’s greatest 
safeguard against the dangers of premature specialization. 
There should, however, always be provision for students 
who can prove their capacity to go on at once to honours 
work to be allowed to do so if they prefer to slip the pre- 
liminary general year. 

Social Studies at School 

This whole question ra^s, of course, a great many 
issues, ranging far beyond tne Social Studies, which I have 


The Teaching of Social Studies in British Universities 

no space here to discuss. Nor have I space to consider how 
sixth-form curricula at school need to be fitted into the 
developing patterns of university education in the Social 
Studies. On the latter point, however, one or two observa- 
tions must be briefly made. I am sure it is undesirable to 
teach elementary Economic Theory at school, unless there 
is a really competent Economics teacher to do it. Economics, 
taught badly out of a text-book to schoolboys, is not merely 
waste of time ; it is actively pernicious. Schools should 
begin rather with Economic and Social History and with 
current social and economic problems — not with Theory. 
Politics stand on rather a different footing because they 
can be related to History teaching, on both the theoretical 
and the institutional side. But I would much rather teach 
Politics at the University level to students with a good 
historical background than to students lacking this, and 
having instead a nodding Acquaintance with text-book Civics 
and text-book Economics. 

The Question of Bias 

Finally, there is the question whether such subjects as 
Economics and Politics can be taught without bias. Of 
course they cannot, being highly controversial at every 
point the moment they leave mere facts and invite the 
student to think. If, however, the question is, not whether 
bias can be avoided, but whether it can be recognized and 
counteracted, the answer is different. I have taught students 
of a wide variety of political and econofhic opinions over a 
good many years. I have never made any attempt to conceal 
my Socialist convictions (and precious little use would it 
have been for me to try — as little as for Professor Hayek to 
conceal his very different views). But I should be prepared 
to stand by the verdict of my students if I appealed to them 
to say that, whatever their views, I have never sought to 
convert them or to do anything except help them to go their 
own way of belief as intelligently as possible. That is a 
perfectly practicable ideal for the teacher in the Social 
v Studies to pursue ; and to pursue it is to give the right 


Essays in Social Theory 

answer to those who oppose the growth of university teach- 
ing in the Social Studies on the ground that impartiality is 
unattainable. Objectivity, not impartiality, is what the 
teacher should aim at ; and in that there is no valid reason 
why he should not succeed. 



The Aims of Education 1 

T he educational system which we attempt to set up 
must depdhd on the kind of society we mean to live in, 
on the qualities in men and women on which we set 
the highest value, and on the estimates which we make of 
the educability both of those who are endowed with the higher 
intellectual or aesthetic capacities and of ordinary people. 
If we are planning for a society in which differences of 
wealth and income will be much smaller than in the past, 
and movement from one? social group to another much 
easier, we shall evidently have to plan for an educational 
system which will yield a much higher basic standard of 
ordinary behaviour and, putting much less emphasis on 
certain qualities now associated with class-superiority, will 
aim at equipping the ordinary man or woman to feel much 
more at home in My society than most of them have any 
chance of feeling at present, except after an awkward period 
of probation. If we recognize that the underlying conditions 
of life are bound to be changing very rapidly during the 
coming generation, and that everyone will have to face the 
prospect of living in a much less static iype of community 
than in the past, we shall necessarily put more stress on the 
need for fostering qualities of initiative and adaptability, not 
only in a few exceptional people marked out for leadership, 
but in the common run of men and women. If we mean to 
meet the requirements of such a society, we shall have to 
consider ‘ educability ’ from the widest possible standpoint, 
so as to include all forms of education that can make people 
more useful, more appreciative and happier in any walk of 
life ; and we shall have to abandon ideas of * educability 


Essays in Social Theory 

which are really based on considering how far the class- 
culture of the past is capable, by a process of dilution, of 
being extended to classes hitherto excluded from it. For 
this view of educability leads to a vast amount of waste, 
through attempts to fit square pegs into round holes, and is 
apt, instead of developing the creative faculties in the people, 
merely to multiply the quality of anpreciation of dying 
cultures in a mutilated and essentially uncreative way. The 
problem we have to face now is not merely that of ‘ diffus- 
ing ’ more widely a culture of which a few are already in 
possession, but rather that of devising a new mental training 
appropriate to the needs of the new society in which our 
children will have to live. 

What is wrong with our present civilization in Great 
Britain and in the Western ‘ democracies * generally is above 
all else its uncreativeness. It is living on its past ; for the 
creative impulses which are not killed by it find for the most 
part only a thwarted expression in criticism, often violent, 
usually pessimistic, and marked as a rule by a failure to feel 
at home in the world and by a lack of purposiveness. This 
applies primarily to the class of ‘ intellectuals * ; but the 
same qualities are present, less obtrusively because they are 
less articulate, in those who, without being styled ‘ in- 
tellectuals ’, are the products of a primarily intellectualist 
training. From University down to primary school, we 
have no clear conception of the purposes for which education 
is being carried on. The entire school system, from primary 
to secondary and ‘ public ’ schools, is permeated by a fear of 
vocationalism which would be laughable if it were not tragic. 
For the ‘ culture * which opposes itself to vocational training 
is in fact in part the survival of a form of preparation for life 
deemed appropriate for a small leisured class possessed of 
great power, self-assurance, and certainty of its own superior 
claims, and in part the outcome of a type of limited vocation- 
alism, directed towards a few of the older professions, which 
was worked out before the spread of the professional status 
over a much wider range of callings, and before the advance 
of science had created a great new range of professions 


The Aims of Education 

calling for radically different types of training and mental 

The effect of the preoccupation of the established educa- 
tional institutions with the methods of education derived 
from the needs of a small leisured class and of the older 
professions was to bring about a dangerous and harmful 
divorce between scientific and cultural education, and to 
encourage undue specialization among those who were 
receiving a scientific training. The concern for the dead 
languages among those who believed themselves to be the 
guardians of culture has both stood in the way of good 
teaching of living languages — which the small upper class 
used to learn by extensive foreign travel — and made the 
divorce between scientific and literary education much 
greater than it need or should have been. 

Apart from all this, our system of subsidized education 
for the many grew up at a time when cheapness was regarded 
as an outstanding merit, and the keeping down of public 
expenditure ranked among statesmen as a cardinal virtue. 
The consequence was seen first in the monitorial system, 
which involved learning by rote, and then in the pupil- 
teacher system which gradually replaced it in our elementary 
schools. We have never grown out of the notion that the 
teaching of ‘ inferior * persons is a profession which can 
suitably be practised by inferior persons, themselves the 
recipients of an education greatly inferior to that demanded 
for the successful practice of the higher professions. This 
in turn has led to a segregation of teachefs in training from 
other groups receiving higher education, and to a persistent 
attempt to conduct the training of teachers on the ‘ cheap 
and nasty ’ principle, imitated from the earlier efforts at 
mass-production of textiles under the factory system. 

There have, of course, been from the first counter- 
tendencies (Robert Owen’s work at New Lanark may be 
cited as an early example) ; but in general the aim of public 
education remained for a long time that of turning out by 
mass-production adolescents who would meet the minimum 
requirements of the developing industrial system and would 


Essays in Social Theory 

be able, by bare knowledge of the Three R’s, to 1 manage ’ 
without making themselves nuisances in a community in- 
creasingly dependent on elementary calculation and on the 
written word. There was, at any rate, until 1902, almost no 
attempt to educate for citizenship in any active sense, save 
where sporadically particular local authorities strained the 
provisions of the Elementary Education Acts to provide 
higher types of schooling — and even these attempts were 
very often so made as to select scholars more on a basis of 
class-differentiation than on one of personal capacity or 
potential usefulness. There was an immense gulf between 
the education provided in the ‘ public ’ schools, designed 
to foster qualities of leadership and initiative, and in their 
preparatory agencies, and that given to the general run of 
the citizens wholly or partly at the public expense. 

The development of public secondary education after 
1902 and much more after *1918 — did something to 
break down the sharp separation between upper- and lower- 
class education. It did this most in the Universities ; and 
the rapid growth of the newer Universities was a clear sign 
of what was happening. But both public Secondary Schools 
and the newer Universities were too apt to imitate the 
traditions and methods of the older 4 public ’ schools and of 
the older Universities, instead of striking out for themselves 
on lines more in harmony with the needs of a more demo- 
cratic age. This was in the main not their fault. It was 
forced upon them, partly by the examination system, but 
even more by the diass-structure of a society in which getting 
a secondary or a university education was bound to be 
regarded by many scholars and by their parents primarily 
as a means of climbing from a lower to a higher social class. 

Thus, in the big extension which has taken place in the 
range of secondary and university education during the past 
fifty, and especially during the past thirty, years, the emphasis 
has been wrong. Stress has been laid on the patterns of 
culture derived from the narrow class - education of the 
preceding generation, and there has been too little attempt 
to work out new patterns appropriate to the wider diffusion 


The Aims of Education 

of the opportunities for higher education, or to the changes 
in the distribution of wealth, political power, and personal 
fitness. Especially, the social content of education has 
undergone a progressive deterioration, despite such ex- 
crescences as the development of classes in ‘ Civics ’ and 
kindred subjects. The followers of Dr. Arnold knew what 
they wanted, and went for it fearlessly — the training of a 
class of leaders deeply imbued with Christian principles and 
conscious of their mission to act as guides and initiators for 
a society which was not meant to be democratic, but only 
bourgeois . The followers of these followers lost the faith in 
this limited type of education, and began to profess more 
democratic ideals. But they did not go in their minds the 
whole way towards democracy. They continued to predicate 
a society divided into classes, but with much freer movement 
of selected individuals from the lower to the higher groups. 
No longer aiming clearly <ft the education of a pre-selected 
ruling class, and not prepared to discard the conception of 
such a class, they were driven to a deplorably individualist 
attempt at selection of the right individuals for promotion 
from class to class, and lost the collective purpose of turning 
out a body of initiators and leaders possessed of a common 
driving force based bn a community of faith and social 
purpose. Education under these conditions became more 
individualistic as society itself became less so ; and a growing 
divergence developed between the quality of education and 
the quality of the life for which boys and girls were supposed 
to be receiving preparation at schools of fhe higher types. 

In the meantime, primary education was held back most 
of all by two limitations — the shortcomings and inferior 
training of the teachers to whom it was entrusted, and the 
excessive burdens thrust upon these teachers in the interests 
of public ‘ economy \ Over and above this, it was unavoid- 
able, in view of the selective quality of the provision for 
higher education, that the primary school should be re- 
garded le6s as an instrument for the education of all up to 
a certain age or standard than as the means of enabling a 
minority to qualify for admission to places of higher educa- 


Essays in Social Theory 

tion, and thus to raise themselves in the social scale. This 
alone would have been enough to prevent the, primary 
school from fulfilling its proper function of doing the best 
by all its pupils ; but the vice was greatly exaggerated by 
the undue size of classes, which made it impossible for 
teachers to give much attention to their more forward pupils 
without ignoring the others. Moreover, the types of training 
given to the teachers caused them to be much better at 
‘ spotting ’ those kinds of forwardness which were primarily 
literary than others which manifested themselves in artistic 
or manual ability ; and the narrowness of the teachers* own 
life and upbringing thus induced a corresponding narrow- 
ness not only in what they were able to impart, but also in 
the qualities they were able to recognize in their pupils. It 
was a further calamity that the cheapness of women’s labour 
caused elementary teaching to become mainly a women’s 
occupation — a calamity not because women are inferior to 
men, but because the education hitherto deemed appropriate 
to women has included much too little in the way of crafts- 
manship or manual dexterity to endow most of them with 
the capacity to recognize or foster these qualities in others. 

Closely connected with these vices of the system of 
elementary education is the sharp cleavage between general 
and technical education, and therewith the failure to give 
technical education a prominence or a status at all corre- 
sponding to the importance of technique in the world of 
to-day. In earlier periods, the boy picked up his technical 
training mainly b$ way of apprenticeship. But in one trade 
after another apprenticeship has been dying out ; and even 
where it remains in being, the opportunities for the appren- 
tice to get an all-round craft training are often very greatly 
restricted by the growth of departmental specialization and 
mass-production. Moreover, a large part of the essential 
technique of many modern crafts is not of such a kind that 
it can be picked up in the workshop. It calls for institutional 
instruction, not only manual, but also mathematical, scien- 
tific, and theoretical. These latter needs are supposed to 
be met by the provision of Technical Colleges, Technical 


The Aims of Education 

Schools, and evening classes of various types. But Technical 
Colleges and Schools are spread very unevenly over the 
country, are often very badly equipped, and touch in any 
case only the fringe of the problem ; and it is out of the 
question for any except the most intelligent — and then only 
if they have great physical endurance — to get what is 
needed out of spare-time instruction after they have done 
a full day’s work. 

Technical education has, in addition, been hampered by 
a continual conflict between its claims and those of 4 general ’ 
education. Growing up largely as an excrescence on an 
educational system conceived mainly in terms of the Three 
R’s, plus culture for a selected few, it has been often unduly 
narrow in its methods ; and the right combinations of 
technical and general education have seldom been provided. 
The main body of school teachers, backed by most of the lay 
enthusiasts for education, have insisted that the provision 
made for general and cultural education for the common 
run of boys and girls is all too scanty, and that any attempt 
to impose added burdens of vocational pre-instruction will 
utterly overweight the curriculum. They have therefore 
usually fought against attempts to introduce a technical- 
vocational bias into the general scheme of public instruction, 
and have thus helped to increase the isolation of technical 
education, and to give it a more ‘ uncultural ’ character than 
it need have assumed. 

It is, indeed, clearly impossible to introduce a technical- 
vocational element into our common schools (primary or 
‘ modern ’) as they are without causing tl\e pupils to go even 
shorter than they do already of the essential cultural basis 
for successful and happy living in a democratic society. The 
problem is insoluble within the limits of the existing system, 
or without the continuance of education for all beyond the 
present leaving age. Only when we envisage the school life 
as extending much further than it does now for the great 
majority of pupils, can we hope so to enlarge the content of 
education as to give the right kinds of vocational preparation 
for life without diminishing the dose of 1 culture \ 


Essays in Social Theory 

But this quantitative way of regarding the problem, 
though it embodies an important part of the truth, is mis- 
leading if it is considered alone.* What is really needed is 
not to add technical-vocational education on to ‘ cultural ’ 
education, but in doing so to endow technical-vocational 
education itself with a higher cultural quality. The cultural 
value of education resides not only in what is taught, but at 
least equally in the way in which the teaching is done. 
Technical and vocational ‘ subjects ’ can *be made quite as 
creative instruments for the imparting of culture as what 
are called ‘ cultural subjects ’, if only they are taught in the 
right way, and by teachers who are themselves cultured, and 
not mere specialists. There is, of course, a very important 
range of general knowledge, apart from vocational know- 
ledge, that must be acquired by every boy or girl who is to 
feel at home in the world and is pot to become a nuisance to 
others. But it is a mistake to link up this essential general 
knowledge exclusively with the literary side of education, 
and not to relate it as closely as possible to the technical- 
vocational side as well. 

I should like to make as clear as I can what I mean by this 
insistence on the technical-vocational side of education. It 
is often argued that, under modern conditions of production, 
so little skill is required in the general run of industrial and 
commercial processes that there is much less room than 
there used to be for vocational training, and that the great 
majority of those^ leaving school for industry will not, in 
fact, need to be trained in any particular types of skill, or 
have any opportunity of using such skill if they are en- 
couraged to acquire it. I believe this view to be mistaken, 
or, at any rate, open to misunderstanding. In the first 
place, it is easy to exaggerate the extent of the disappearance 
of skill from industry by concentrating undue attention on 
a limited number of mass-production factories and leaving 
out of account the much larger numbers of workers who 
continue to be employed in relatively small establishments. 
The proportionate need for skill is, no doubt, diminishing, 
but not nearly so fast as those who think in terms of great 


The Aims of Education 

mass-production establishments are apt to imagine ; and 
there are, in fact, in the smaller establishments a great many 
openings for skilled work, especially in quite small-scale 
employment, for example in garages, on jobbing electrical 
and building work, and in many other occupations in which 
it is still possible for a man either to start up for himself in 
a small way or to work in a small producing unit which calls 
for a fairly wide range of diversified skill and dexterity. 
There is also much greater need than ever for the training 
of a limited number of persons to a very high degree of skill, 
as mass-production tends to call for higher types of skill 
from the skilled workers whom it does require than were 
demanded from the majority of those who were previously 
classified as skilled workers. 

There is, however, a point of much greater substance 
than this. Even if it is true that the amount of skill required 
of the great majority of workers is diminishing, and that 
most jobs in factories can be picked up fairly quickly and 
with relatively little training, it remains true that it is of 
great importance to equip the workers who are to operate 
these jobs with what may be called a general 4 machine 
sense \ This is important both for the avoidance of acci- 
dents and for the pace of work that can be secured without 
over-strain, and also because the possession of this machine 
sense gives the operative far better opportunities of changing 
from job to job and avoiding being tied down to a single 
monotonous routine occupation. I believe it is of great 
importance to encourage this mobility of labour and that 
the importance increases as more jobs become monotonous 
and each job calls for only a narrow range of skill or dexterity. 

What I have in mind, then, in advocating a larger tech- 
nical-vocational element in our general system of education, 
and in urging that this element should itself be imbued with 
a more cultural quality, is not so much to advocate training 
in specific crafts — except for a minority, and at a quite late 
stage of their education — as to urge the importance of a 
much more generalized education of our youth in machine 
sense? and manual dexterity, capable of being applied over a 


Essays in Social Theory 

wide range of different occupations. I believe that this is 
desirable not only in relation to the occupational future of 
those entering industry but, even more, from the human 
point of view, because I believe that in a high proportion of 
young people education in the creative use of the hands has 
an important influence on character and tends — in the 
right combination with book-learning — to foster qualities 
of initiative and personal self-expression which are in danger 
of being killed by a lop-sided system of #i education in con- 
junction with the growth of monotony in many industrial 
operations. I stress this point because I find that so often 
the advocacy of education in the u^e of the hands is mis- 
interpreted as meaning nothing more than education for a 
specific trade ; whereas what 1 have in mind is not only 
giving to the boy or girl a wider opportunity for choice of 
job when they have reached adult life, but, equally, an 
education which will minister to happiness through the 
creative use of leisure. I believe that anyone who knows 
how to use his or her hands has much more chance of having 
a happy and pleasant home, and of being well-balanced in 
his or her own mind, than those who have been trained 
exclusively on more narrowly ‘ cultural ’ lines, in the tradi- 
tional use of the term. 

I am writing on the assumption that this picture of things 
as they have been will be radically altered in the near future, 
not only by the effects of raising the school-leaving age to 
15, without any exemptions for ‘ beneficial employment ’, 
and also as speedily as possible to 16, but also by the institu- 
tion of compulsory part-time education up to the age of 18, 
and by a considerable increase in the amount of full-time 
education beyond 16. I want the leaving age to go to 16 as 
soon as possible ; but I am inclined to regard the extension 
of part-time education to 18 as having priority because it 
seems to me vital that, as soon as the necessary arrangements 
can be made, the educational process shall continue for all 
through the key years of adolescence, and, from another 
aspect, through the years during which those who have 
entered industry are learning their several trades' and 


The Aims of Education 

getting their practical experience of the conditions of work- 
shop life. Only by this extension of part-time education to 
1 8 can it be made possible either to reinstate apprentice- 
ship (combined with institutional instruction) on a founda- 
tion suited to the structure of modern industry, or to make 
the right links between school education and adult education, 
which at present suffers terribly from the gap between the 
age at which school instruction ends and the suitable age 
for admission to adult classes or groups. 

It therefore seems to me that the thinking out in the right 
way of the implications of a system of compulsory part-time 
education up to 18 is tKe correct starting-point for a general 
survey of possible next steps in educational reform. Our 
schools, both primary and secondary (in the present sense) 
will have to be planned to meet the needs not of a body of 
school-leavers or of a selected few who are to go up higher 
on account of special qualities, but of a general body of boys 
and girls who, for the next few years, will be combining 
part-time school education with industrial or some other 
form of ‘ gainful ’ employment. 

What is it, then, that we want these new part-time 
County Colleges to do for the adolescents between the 
school-leaving age and 18 ? In part, we want these new 
institutions to help them to learn their jobs better — which 
means not merely to acquire a higher manual dexterity, but 
also to understand them, and fit themselves for taking an 
intelligent interest in the progress of the establishments in 
which they are employed — and also, incidentally, to fit 
themselves for promotion, where they are suitable, to higher 
types of work. That is one object. But we also want these 
County Colleges to bring up boys and girls in the arts of 
good living — to give them an understanding of the proper 
care of body and mind, to teach them the facts of adolescence 
and of manhood or womanhood, and to help them to manage 
their homes, their incomes, their children, better when the 
time comes, and to make the best uses of their leisure both 
at once and later in life. That is a second object ; and it is 
closely connected with a third — which is to make them 


Essays in Social Theory 

better citizens, with a higher consciousness of moral obliga- 
tions to others and a better sense of the powers and re- 
sponsibilities of citizenship in national and local government, 
and of social behaviour in Trade Unions, Churches, Clubs, 
and all the other bodies in which they will have, happily or 
unhappily, to collaborate with groups of their fellow-men. 

The pupils in these part-time ‘ Colleges ’, it must always 
be borne in mind, will be at the same time workers, earning 
their own livings at least in part, and it will be not only im- 
possible, but also highly undesirable , to treat them as school 
children in any ordinary sense. The ordinary school child, 
when at school, is isolated from the rest of the community. 
The school is a place apart, and the child’s life is in the main 
divided between school and home. This isolation of the 
school is, however, precisely what should be most avoided 
in the case of part-time continued education. The County 
College should be treated, not as a place apart, but as one 
element in the public provision made for the adolescent. 
It should be linked as closely as possible not only with the 
institutions designed for the recreation and the pursuit of 
physical fitness of youth, but also with institutions which 
will lead the adolescent on to adult activities with the least 
possible break in continuity. For this purpose, it should be 
built, wherever possible, close to the Technical College, the 
Public Library or a branch of it, the Community Centre, 
and other institutions resorted to by adults as well as 
adolescents. The voluntary bodies dealing with both 
adolescents and adults should be given full access to it, and 
facilities for meeting on its premises. There should be some 
sort of special Citizens’ Advice Bureau for adolescents 
attached to it, and special care should be taken to provide 
advice and help about questions of health, mental as well as 

In terms of bricks and mortar and open space, what I 
am envisaging is an area large enough to provide, wherever 
possible, space for playing-fields covering a wide range of 
recreations, and studded about this area a group of buildings 
of which the County College would be one, and the Branch 


The Aims of Education 

Library another, the rest depending on the possibilities of 
each particular area — a Technical College or School in 
some cases, a Community .Centre or Village Hall in others, 
sometimes a full-time Grammar or Multilateral School, and 
so on, according to opportunity. I particularly want this 
complex of buildings to house a mixture of adolescent and 
adult activities, and to connect itself as closely as possible 
with the general life of the community, and not exclusively 
with education in any formal sense. Moreover, I want these 
institutions to have links beyond those of mere physical 
continuity — to engage in joint activities and contests, and 
to encourage individual mixing up between their several 
groups of ‘ consumers \ I want the County College to be 
in these ways, as well as in its formal instruction, a school of 
citizenship and democracy. 

Consider now how such an institution as has been sug- 
gested would fit into a general plan of school education. The 
general plan of full-time education for all would be based on 
the triple provision of Nursery Schools, Primary Schools, 
and Secondary Schools (usually up to at least 16). The 
combined curriculum of these three institutions would be 
preparatory to the work to be done in the County College, 
as well as to the ent/y into gainful employment. Schools 
would no longer be expected to complete the formal education 
of the ordinary boy or girl ; and their freedom of manoeuvre 
in respect of curricula and educational content would be at 
once greatly increased. But it would remain essential for 
them to do everything they could to discover before their 
pupils left at 16 zvhat occupations they had better enter. 

This is a vitally important point ; for it makes dead 
against the notion that education at least up to 15 should 
consist mainly of the Three R’s plus trimmings, and that 
anything connected with vocational education should be 
pushed on to later years. It is no doubt desirable to defer as 
long as possible a binding decision about the precise trade 
which an adolescent is to enter ; but a very important object 
of full-time schooling should be to discover, by practical 
experiment, in what type of occupation he or she is likely 


Essays in Social Theory 

to find the best prospect of happiness and success. Indeed, 
to tackle this problem effectively is the most important of all 
the functions of the school whioh caters for boys and girls 
between n and 15. 

The other side of this medal is that it is a great mistake 
to think of the County College, which will cater for those 
between 15 or 16 and 18, as concerned mainly with technical 
education. That is one of its functions, but at least equally 
important is its civic function of prepafing the adolescent 
for the adult business of living, both private and collective. 
4 Bias ’, towards this or that group of occupations, has its 
rightful place in the Secondary ScHool, as leading up to a 
definite choice of occupation. 4 Culture ’, as an equipment 
for the art of living, has its appropriate and essential place 
in the County College, as regards all those cultural attain- 
ments which cannot be acquired before adolescence has 
been reached. 

Naturally, I do not want the Secondary School to be- 
come a place of training for a particular occupation. But 
this must not be taken as excluding in such schools a voca- 
tional bias broadly corresponding to the structure of local 
industries — provided that the education is made of such a 
character as to keep open the widest practicable choice of 
employment for the individual. When an area is largely 
specialized to a particular industry or group of trades, it is 
natural and desirable that its Secondary Schools should be 
regarded, from one aspect, as instruments of preparation for 
entry into these trades. The exclusive dependence of any 
area on the fortunes of a single industry is no doubt to be 
avoided, wherever possible ; but that is not primarily an 
educational question, and schools have in practice to adjust 
themselves to the local openings for employment, whether 
these offer a wide or a narrow range of choice. 

If the Secondary School, modern, technical, or multi- 
lateral, is to bear the main responsibility for guiding its 
pupils towards the available employments in which they are 
likely to be happiest and most productive, it follows that 
considerable attention must be paid in it to the manual bents 


The Aims of Education 

of its pupils as well as to their gifts for ‘ book-learning \ 
Important conclusions follow about the qualities required 
in the teaching staffs of sudi schools, and about the dangers 
of isolating pupils at an age below 16 in specialized Technical 
or Trade Schools designed to prepare them for a particular 
trade or industry. The specialized Trade School for pupils 
of any age is acceptable only if it forms in effect part of a 
complex of institutions with a much wider range, and if it is 
easy at any stage for individual pupils to transfer from it to 
a school which will prepare them for some other type of 
employment. Indeed, they must be able not only to transfer 
when they are clear that' the first choice of specialization has 
been a mistake, but also to experiment in alternative tech- 
niques before making a definite decision to transfer. This 
need reinforces the case for Multilateral Schools or Poly- 
technics, as against specialized Trade Schools, or at the very 
least for the grouping together of schools preparing for 
different occupations, in order to make it as easy as possible 
to experiment in alternative courses of training, and to 
change the specific forms of training without an upheaval in 
the social life of the pupil, and without the necessity of 
breaking old and forming new friendships. 

I believe firmly, wherever possible, in the multilateral 
type of Secondary School, as well as in Polytechnics for 
evening and part-time instruction. The case for the Multi- 
lateral School depends not only on the desirability of making 
transference easy from one kind of training to another, but 
also on the undesirability of isolating socially those who are 
training themselves for a single occupation or group of 
occupations. An essential part of the process of democratic 
education is the social mixing of those who intend to follow 
different walks in life ; and this should be a governing 
consideration in the drafting of all educational plans. 

If the Secondary School and the part-time County 
College are to fulfil the social purposes which have been 
suggested for them, they must have teaching staffs capable 
of carrying on the types of education that are required. 
Thus, the Secondary School must have on its staff an 


Essays in Social Theory 

adequate number of persons who are equipped to handle the 
problems of vocational selection, and indeed the entire full- 
time staff must be trained to regard the educational process 
largely from this point of view. This implies a higher degree 
of manual dexterity and acquaintance with manual crafts 
among secondary school teachers than are now required. 
It means that the manual side of education must not be left 
to specialist craft teachers who have little or nothing to do 
with the general education of the pupils? or with the moral 
side of their instruction. There follow very important 
consequences concerning the right selection and training of 
the teachers themselves. 

Correspondingly, the teachers in part - time County 
Colleges will need high qualities of intellectual and social 
comprehension, as it is on them, pre-eminently, that the 
tasks of training in the arts of citizenship will be bound to 
fall. They will need also to be well acquainted with the 
physical and moral problems of the adolescent, in order to 
be able to give the right guidance during the critical years 
when the boys and girls are simultaneously finding their feet 
in industry or other employment, and learning to adapt 
themselves to the critical life-changes of adolescence. 

Throughout the proposed system of schools, the pro- 
vision of the right types of teachers will be a matter of 
crucial importance. I believe the present methods of 
supplying the demand for teachers to be, in many respects, 
extremely unfortunate and misconceived. It seems to me 
highly undesirable on social grounds to isolate those who 
are to become teachers, during their period of training, in 
a specialized institution consisting wholly of teachers in 
training, instructed wholly by persons wholly engaged in 
training teachers, and cooped up residentially in a sort of 
teachers’ monkey-house apart from ordinary human beings 
who propose to follow other occupations. The life of the 
teacher is in any event so abnormal, and the relation of 
superiority of teacher to pupil so dangerous to human 
qualities of poise and social adaptability, that to isolate the 
teacher during the period of training is highly unfavourable 


The Aims of Education 

to the broad human basis which is needed in an educational 
system designed to foster the creative qualities essential to a 
progressive democratic corrynunity. I confess I should like 
to see teachers’ training colleges entirely abolished, or rather 
converted from institutions designed exclusively for training 
teachers into institutions in which young men and women 
would find opportunities for preparation for many different 
kinds of social and cultural work, including teaching, and 
would be able to postpone to the latest possible moment a 
definite choice between the alternatives open to them. This, 
of course, does not apply to post-graduate institutions for 
the training of teachers, forming really integrated parts of a 
University, as these do not, in the same way, isolate the 
teachers from those preparing for other careers, nor need 
they involve a premature choice of profession. 

But, if teachers are not to be trained in separate training 
colleges, designed exclusivel/ for them, where are they to be 
trained ? It is impracticable to suggest that they should at 
once all go to a University or higher Technical Institute and 
take a three years’ degree course, to be followed by a period 
of specialized training in a university education department. 
I am sure that this is what ought to happen in the long run, 
although I am not • unmindful that it involves very large 
changes in the practice and attitude of the Universities, and 
in their entire relation to the general system of education 
and to society as a whole. But I do not regard these changes 
as impracticable, and I do place a high value on the standards 
which the Universities endeavour to maintain, even though 
these standards are often at present based on obsolete ideas 
of what education ought to be. What I feel quite sure 
about is that there should be a complete discontinuance of 
the system by which, with or without foimal compulsion, 
money grants are given to enable adolescents to proceed to a 
University or to any other place of non-graduate education on 
the understanding that they will thereafter become teachers. 
No one should decide to be a teacher without first experi- 
menting in actual teaching, or until well on in a university 
degree course or in some other non-specialized course of 


Essays in Social Theory 

higher education. Choice of occupation should be deferred 
to the latest possible moment ; and it is a form of murder 
to tie people down at an early stage to occupations for which 
they may find themselves wholly unsuited even before their 
training is complete. 

It is, however, both impracticable and undesirable at 
present to insist on a university degree course for all pro- 
spective teachers, as this could not yet be done without a 
disastrous lowering of the standards of university education, 
or without modifications in the attitude of the Universities 
towards the educational problem as a whole which most 
university teachers are at present by no means ready to 
accept. The Universities, as they are, would be swamped if 
they were forced to take on so colossal a job. Nor are they 
at present equipped to undertake it, even apart from the 
problem of numbers. It seems to me that, for the time being, 
the only practicable solution is! to establish a considerable 
number of Local Colleges, preferably affiliated to Uni- 
versities under a regional system, though not forming part 
of them. These Local Colleges or Federations of Colleges 
should be, not specialized institutions for the training of 
teachers, but general Colleges, in which prospective teachers 
would be mingled with students preparing for many other 
occupations. In some cases they could be based on existing 
Teachers’ Training Colleges, and in others on existing 
Technical or Commercial Colleges under trust or municipal 
auspices. In yet other cases they could be new institutions, 
perhaps taking over the buildings and endowments of 
obsolete ‘ public ’ schools situated in or near towns. What 
is essential is that they should be ‘ universitates ’, if in a junior 
sense, preparing students for many walks in life, and leaving 
the committal choice between alternative occupations to the 
latest possible moment. 

This proposal includes, but is very much wider than, the 
proposal that prospective teachers and prospective youth 
leaders and organizers and social workers of many kinds 
should be educated together — or rather, that adolescents 
intended for any of these occupations should begin their 


The Aims of Education 

college courses in common, any specialized instruction 
dependent on choice of occupation being given later in the 
course — except that opportunities would be given early to 
sample the more specialized forms of training as a help 
towards choice. A common basis of college education for 
all types of social and administrative work would be a big 
advance on what happens now ; but it is highly undesirable 
that social workers, public servants in local or central 
administration, and teachers, who have many common 
temptations to abnormality, should be educated apart 
from persons who are destined for quite different types of 

I am sure that this problem of the education of teachers 
holds a key position in the working out of future educational 
plans. For, as long as the teachers are trained apart, it will 
remain impossible to secure that integration of the processes 
of education with the general life of the community which is 
needed for healthy and creative citizenship. 

I fully expect that many elementary teachers (and some 
teachers of such teachers) will resent what I have been 
saying, under the impression that it is meant as an attack on 
the teaching profession. It is meant as an attack on the 
practice of training teachers in institutions designed ex- 
clusively for that purpose, and still more on the conditions 
which compel adolescents to decide to be teachers without 
any opportunity of finding out whether they are likely to 
be good at the job or happy in it. But it is not meant as an 
attack on the teachers, in any other serfce than that which 
regards them, unless they possess very high qualities of 
personal ability to rise above their surroundings, as the 
victims of a pernicious and soul-destroying system. Many 
elementary teachers have risen quite wonderfully above the 
abominable conditions of their preparation for their careers, 
and have done marvels in recent years towards raising the 
imaginative standards of teaching in the Elementary Schools. 
But that does not alter the fact that it is contrary to all sound 
precept and to ordinary common sense either to require 
them to destine themselves for teaching at an age when most 


' Essays in Social Theory 

of them cannot possibly tell whether they will like it or be 
good at it, or to huddle them up with other prospective 
teachers at a time when they ought to be gaining as much 
experience as possible of the worfd, and rubbing shoulders 
as far as possible with all sorts and conditions of men. 

This problem of providing the right sorts of teachers and 
equipping them humanly as well as educationally with the 
right outlook must be tackled early because training takes 
a long time (and should take considerably longer than is 
usually allowed for it), and because the success or failure of 
the new Secondary Schools and part-time County Colleges 
will depend very greatly on the quality and attitude of the 
teachers who are put to teach in them during the critical 
years while their standards and traditions are being formed. 
If the new schools and County Colleges are started with the 
wrong sorts of teachers, and are allowed to acquire the wrong 
traditions, they will be a disastrous failure, and, far from 
serving as nurseries of democracy and creative capacity, will 
nourish anti-social discontents analogous to those which 
went in Italy and Germany to the making of Fascist reaction. 

I do not believe that the problems of curricula in any 
type of school can be fruitfully approached except against 
some background of general educational purpose such as I 
am attempting to paint in this essay. Until we have made up 
our minds pretty clearly what we propose to educate our 
children for , at each important stage of life, we cannot 
possibly get far towards deciding what we ought to educate 
them in. In what \ have written I have postulated education 
for active and co-operative democracy , to be shared in by 
as large a proportion as possible of the whole number of 
citizens ; and the practical conclusions I have drawn are all, 
in my mind, directly related to this overriding purpose. 

Before I finish, I want to come back to this fundamental 
issue, and to approach it by a somewhat different route. I 
shall therefore risk exposing myself to derisive criticism, by 
endeavouring to define the essential content of the active 
democratic education which I envisage. The definition will 
necessarily be very rough and provisional, but it will, I hope, 


The Aims of Education 

relate itself clearly to what I have written about the various 
types of public educational institutions and about their place 
in a reformed system of education. 

I suggest, then, that the outstanding purpose of our 
system of public education should be to prepare our children 
for active and co-operative democratic citizenship in an age 
dominated by the development of new scientific techniques, 
which are continually threatening to outgrow our collective 
capacity for controlling their use. I suggest that an educa- 
tion having this purpose should be so designed as to meet 
the following six groups of needs : 

i. Common Convenience, or Prevention of Nuisance. 
It should be designed to put every boy and girl in 
possession of such knowledge, adaptability, initiative, and 
presence of mind as will enable them to get through life 
without being nuisances*to themselves or to others, with- 
out being embarrassed by their ignorance of essential 
things and procedures, and without being prevented by 
sheer incompetence from acting in common with neigh- 
bours or workmates in those affairs which call for group 
action or deliberation. 

For example, everyone — boy orgirl — should be able to : 

Read easily, write intelligibly, do ordinary sums and 
accounts ; 

Take reasonable care of his or her health, understand the 
elementary rules of diet, and keep hi^ or her person clean 
and neat ; 

Behave with common politeness, keep his or her temper 
under ordinary provocation, and sing in tune (unless nature 
has decreed otherwise) ; 

Know how to keep quiet, be reasonably tidy in domestic 
habits, be tolerably punctual and regular ; 

Sew on a button, darn a stocking, mend a bicycle puncture ; 

Knock in a nail, fix a tap-washer or fuse-wire, turn off the 
gas or water or electricity at the main ; 

Boil an egg, fry a sausage or a herring, lay a table ; 

Make a bed, clean a room properly, lay a fire ; 


Essays in Social Theory 

Use the telephone, look up a train, pack a trunk or a 
parcel ; 

Shop sensibly, do simple gardening, change a baby ; 

Know the essential facts of sex ; do first aid ; 

Fill up a sensibly drafted form correctly, make a simple 
speech, behave sensibly at a meeting. 

Common Service, or From Each according to his 
Capacities. The educational system should be designed 
to equip every boy and girl, within the limits of their 
physical and mental capacities, to earn their own livings 
and to serve the community as weir as themselves accord- 
ing to their several qualifications, with the minimum of 
misfits and waste of talent. 

For example, education should pay special attention to : 

Finding out the capacities ar*d bents of each boy and girl 
as far as they minister to the needs of production and 
service ; 

Giving the best possible help and guidance in the choice of 
a vocation ; 

Providing as much scope as possible for change of voca- 
tion, and for re-training, where initial mistakes are made, 
or where demand alters ; 

Allowing for late development by providing for the needs 
of adults as well as children and adolescents ; 

Supplying ‘ refresher * courses in order that old know- 
ledge may be^ept fresh, and new knowledge be acquired 
to meet changing needs ; 

Imbuing the processes of technical instruction with social 
as well as merely individual meaning ; 

Combining institutional instruction with gainful em- 
ployment so as to make each help the other, and help 
towards an understanding of the other. 

Enjoyment and Appreciation, or to ’et zhn in its 
private aspect. The educational system should be 
designed to equip every boy and girl, according to their 
several bents and capacities, with the means of making 


The Aims of Education 

the most satisfying use of leisure, both creatively and by 
the appreciation of good things that can be put within 
their reach. 

For example, everyone should have a chance of show- 
ing whether they can enjoy : 

Reading, original writing ; 

Study of a literary kind as distinct from mere reading, 
probably leading on to research at a later stage ; 

Drawing, painting ; 

Playing a musical instrument ; or singing solo or in a 
choir ; 

Acting ; 

Taking part in athletic sports and games ; 

Learning a manual craft, not professionally, but as a 
leisure occupation ; 

Tinkering with macinncs, again not professionally ; 

Going abroad ; mixing with foreigners ; and learning 
foreign languages conversationally ; 

Hiking and camping out ; 

Organizing things — and people. 

Social Morality, or Sentiment of Community. The 
educational system should be designed to endow every 
boy and girl with a sufficient basis of common moral 
sentiment and belief to enable the largest possible pro- 
portion of them to live in harmony with the society to 
which they belong, and to contribute actively to its 
development. (For without this there is no community, 
no power to achieve collective greatness, no concerted 
will to resist attack on the essential social values.) 

Note. In the modern world religion is unable to 
supply this common basis of sentiment and belief ; and 
the decay of religion has left a moral void, which has to 
be filled by conscious education in social morality. This 
implies two things: (i) that education must be relative, 
in this aspect, to the social order in which it is set, and (2) 
that moral teaching must be social teaching, and must be, 


Essays in Social Theory 

not a separate ‘ subject ’, but a spirit infusing the teaching 
of all subjects. Its attachment to the teaching of religion 
as now practised in schools (where it is largely taught by 
irreligious teachers) drags down moral teaching to the low 
level of compulsory 1 religious * instruction. 

5. Personal and Group Initiative, or Democratic 
Creativeness. The educational system should be de- 
signed to foster in every boy and girl habits of self- 
reliance and initiative, and so to develop the critical 
faculties as not to undermine the basis of common 
sentiment and belief. 


Note. Mere intellcctualism is apt to foster a critical 
spirit which, accepting no standards, leads to pessimism, 
egoism, and practical inefficiency. When this type of 
intellectualism infects the teachers, it is passed on to the 
pupils in a diluted form, with disastrous consequences. 

6. Common Standards, or Sucial Equality. The educa- 
tional system should be designed to assimilate social 
habits of speech, dress, and common behaviour to the 
highest attainable standards, without destroying local or 
national variations, and without imposing conformities 
which are not necessary for convenience of social inter- 
course, or narrowing the opportunities for the expression 
of individual character. 

For example, 

An educated man should be able to marry his cook, and 
vice versa , without the probability of clashes of social 
behaviour ; 

There should be no difficulty about sending a dock 
labourer’s son to Eton ; 

No one should mind how anyone else dresses, subject 
to the claims of decency ; 

Proletarianism, as well as snobbery, should become out of 



An Essay on Social Morality 1 

T he world is not arranged to suit man’s convenience. 
There is no 4 invisible hand ’ which ensures that each 
man, in staking his own good, as he sees it, shall 
further the good of all : nor is there any assurance that the 
diverse ends by which /nen set store shall be fully compatible 
one with another. Men have to arrange the world : it is 
not arranged for them, nor is their path plainly marked out 
for them beyond a peradventure. They can differ about 
ends, as well as about means, not only because some men 
will good more than evil and others evil more than good, but 
also because different men, and different communities, set 
store by different things, or at all events put varying valua- 
tions upon them. There is no certainty that all good men 
will come to agree if only they argue long enough with open 
minds. There is, in human affairs, no absolutely demon- 
strable right course * ) follow among the many combinations 
that are possible on the basis of a given situation. 

Yet there are some things that can be excluded as wrong, 
even if no one course can be plainly marked out as right. 
This wrongness is of two kinds. Some ends and some 
courses of action arc ethically wrong, #so that to-day in 
civilized countries only evil or deluded human beings can 
pursue them. To this category belong the exaltation of war 
as a thing good in itself or ennobling to participants in it ; 
the will to exercise domination over other peoples, not as a 
necessary evil, but as an end in itself; the suppression of 
free speech and freedom of organization, again not as a 
necessary evil in a dire emergency, but as a means of ensuring 
uniformity and ready acquiescence in the ends of the ruling 
group ; the encouragement in men of primitive passions 
such as hatred or contempt of foreigners in general, or of 

7 1 

Essays in Social Theory 

any particular kind of foreigner ; and last, but not least, 
action based on an attempt to defeat reason rather than to 
increase its hold on men’s minds.* 

These are all examples of actions or policies which are 
morally wrong, and can be justified, if at all, only on the plea 
that a small dose of one of them is necessary in order to 
prevent a greater evil — itself an exceedingly dangerous plea. 
Side by side with these morally wrong actions and policies 
there are others which are wrong, not because they affront 
morality, but because they fly in the face of inescapable 
facts. Thus, it is wrong, but not morally wrong, to struggle 
for the restoration of laissez-faire in the economic world, 
because laissez-faire is plainly incompatible with the con- 
ditions of mass-production which modern technology has 
brought into being — so that, instead of laissez-faire , those 
who struggle for it get for master unregulated Monopoly 
Capitalism. It is wrong, but not morally wrong, to attempt 
to bring about a return to the complete and independent 
State Sovereignty of the separate nations of Europe, because 
these nominally independent States are bound, under the 
conditions of modern military and economic technique, to 
be for the most part incapable of self-defence, and so to 
become the victims of their greater neighbours, and also 
because such States are incapable of developing economic 
policies which will enable the growing forces of production 
to be effectively used for raising the general standards of 
life among the peoples. It is man’s moral duty to be good : 
it is further his rational duty to be sensible and not to pursue 
courses of action which do not harmonize with the objective 
facts he has to deal with. 

I stress this dual character of ‘ wrong ’ because a great 
deal of nonsense has been talked by persons who are deter- 
mined to resolve the one kind into the other, on the plea 
of being 4 scientific ’ instead of 4 metaphysical ’. It is not 
4 metaphysics ’, but plain common sense, that every man who 
is not out of his mind has in him the conceptions of moral 
right and wrong, however difficult he may sometimes find 
it to apply them in practice. The very growth of human 


An Essay on Social Morality 

civilization is, in one of its aspects, the growth of this con- 
sciousness of right and wrong, and of collective sensibleness 
in applying it. It is true*enough that from generation to 
generation the designations of particular actions as morally 
right and wrong change, and that between widely differing 
societies there are very wide differences in the application 
of the ideas of good and evil. But why not ? Such differ- 
ences are entirely natural, in a world not made for man 
ready and complete, but subject to his own influence as 
a shaper of his material and mental environment. What 
particular things men deem good and evil depends on the 
type, and on the degree of advancement, of the society they 
live in. In effect, their complex notions of good and evil 
at any time and in any place are an important element in 
their social heritage. They build their notions of good and 
evil as they build cities, laws, and constitutions, and ways 
of living in general. The growth of civilization is this 
process of building, moral as well as material — a building 
of ideas as well as of brick or stone, a building in which ideas 
are embodied in brick or stone, and brick or stone made 
into means of expressing and perpetuating men’s ideas of 
the art of life. 

The continuity of a civilization depends on its success in 
accumulating from genei ion to generation its collective 
experience in the arts of building, both physically and in the 
minds of its citizens. It is of vital importance that no 
successful step once taken in building up # the idea of good 
and evil in men’s minds shall be retraced. The precise 
denotation of the things called good will change as cir- 
cumstances change : the connotations of the words used to 
express different aspects of goodness will grow wider and 
deeper. But the ideas behind the words will never, in a 
continuing civilization, lose ‘ weight ’ or meaning : on the 
contrary, they will be always ‘ putting on weight ’ until each 
idea has reached the full dimensions of which it is capable. 
A continuing civilization will never without disaster wholly 
discard an idea of good or evil, or suffer it to decay ; but 
equally it will not let such ideas become ossified or lose 


Essays in Social Theory 

their capacity for growth and change. The applications of 
ideas of good and evil must continually change ; but this 
process must be, in a living civilization, not a series of 
jumps from one application to another, but a continuous 
adaptation to changing needs and growing knowledge. 

Consider in this light the moral ideas mentioned a page 
or two ago. The civilization we live : n long ago banished 
private wars, save in its remoter backwoods ; and from the 
conception of a nation-wide civil order it has been advancing 
gradually to the conception that all wars between nations 
are an outrage on human decency. All wars, that is, save 
wars of defence forced upon men by an ‘ aggression ’ which 
civilized beings have been learning to regard as immoral 
and wrong absolutely — though I do not suggest that this 
lesson has yet been at all completely learnt. 

Similarly, the common conscience of our developing 
civilization has been learning to regard as morally wrong 
the domination of one people over another — though in this 
lesson it has advanced less far, and is still apt to regard 
continuing domination as defensible by prescriptive right, 
even while it condemns attempts to establish new domina- 
tions. Witness the difference in the ordinary educated 
Englishman’s attitude to British rule in Malaya and to 
Italian rule in Ethiopia. Yet, even in relation to Malaya or 
the African colonies, public opinion has advanced far enough 
for it to be necessary for imperialists to assert that subject 
countries are bemg ruled for the advantage of their peoples, 
and not merely by the right of the stronger. - 

Take, again, the question of free speech and freedom of 
organization. It is not much more than a century (and much 
less in many countries of Western Europe) since the govern- 
ing classes sought, with perfectly easy consciences, to sup- 
press not only all Trade Unions but also all forms of popular 
political association on which they could lay their hands. 
The Nazis and their followers recently resumed and 
systematized these practices ; but the common conscience 
of West European civilization (from which Nazism was a 
calamitous throwback) has learnt to condemn them as 


An Essay on Social Morality 

morally wrong, and to recognize freedom of speech and 
association as moral goods needed for the expression of the 
human spirit and for adaptation of social institutions to 
changing needs and opportunities. These lessons, of course, 
have not been fully learnt ; and the learning of them is so 
recent that they are not very deeply rooted in the morality 
of the common man — especially in countries which are 
comparatively late-comers to Western civilization. But, up 
to a point, they have been learnt ; and they provide founda- 
tions which are indispensable to our civilization’s further 

Yet again, man’s advance in any civilization consists 
largely in his collective success in recognizing that difference 
does not imply antagonism, in realizing that men who speak 
different languages and have different customs are not there- 
fore his enemies, and in substituting curiosity and interest 
for hatred and contempt as Ae sentiments which move him 
in his dealings with ‘ foreigners ’. In many parts of England, 
even, the word 4 foreigner ’ still means anyone who does not 
belong by upbringing to the immediate neighbourhood. In 
Oxford, where I live, certainly a Welshman, and perhaps 
even a Yorkshireinan, is still a 4 foreigner ’ in the minds of 
many of the local fok. But this perception of difference no 
longer implies antagonism or implies it only in an attenuated 
form which has ceased to be dangerous, and is compatible 
with friendly relations and fruitful social intercourse. As 
between 4 nationals ’ whose habits are wider apart, the 
recognition of community has advanced fess far ; and for 
most men there comes a point at which the cross is too wide 
for antagonism not to hold sway. But Western civilization 
is vastly further on towards a recognition of common 
humanity than it was in the eighteenth century, when the 
slave trade was the foundation of so many fortunes and only 
a narrow class had, or could have, any conception of inter- 
nationalism in its mind. 1 

1 I do not want here to go into the point that this growth of national 
feeling as against ‘ the foreigner ' was closely associated with the rise of 
national States, and that mediaeval civilization in Western Europe was 
much more international in outlook than the civilization which followed 


, Essays in Social Theory 

Lastly, a continuing civilization implies a growing belief 
in reasonableness as a social value, and in the encouragement 
of reasonable conduct as a course morally right. One sign 
of this is the growth of popular education and, within this 
growth, the development of a liberalizing tendency designed 
to stimulate the individual to use his rational faculties. 
Another sign is the increasing toleration, passing over into 
positive encouragement, of free speech and freedom of 
association — of which I have spoken already. This does 
not mean that civilization involves a belief in the entire 
rationality of men, even potentially, but only that it does 
imply a belief that the rational elements in men ought to 
be encouraged, and their reasoning faculties developed to 
the fullest possible extent. This is not to say that all the 
irrational elements in humanity are evil — far from it. But 
it is to recognize reason as the human quality which, as 
civilization advances, ought more and more to exercise a 
paramount and co-ordinating control. 

These values of our civilization, and others akin to them, 
are possessions which we have recently been forced to 
defend against an attack which, if it had succeeded, would 
have been bound to wreck our civilization altogether, and 
to compel the humanity of Western Europe to begin the 
long and painful task of building decent ways of living all 
over again. But, it is vital to assert, these gains of civilized 
living are not, and cannot be, static values. We fought for 
the right, not to preserve them as they are, but to develop 
them in response to changing needs and opportunities. If 
we try merely to preserve them, they will die upon our hands, 
ceasing to be values as we cease continually to reinterpret 
them and to enlarge their meaning. We must seek to have 
continually a wider conception of all these values, and to give 
them a wider and deeper practical application, or we shall 
be well on the way to ceasing to possess them at all, however 
‘ victorious ’ the outcome of the war may have been. For 

upon it. This is entirely true, but it is not relevant to the point which 
I am putting forward in this essay ; and it would lead me too far astray 
from my argument were I to enlarge upon it now. 


An Essay on Social Morality 

there are no static values : everything grows, or it must 
decay. Nothing stays put in the realm of values, any more 
than in the realm of science* or of economic technique. 

Moral values are not static ; but they arc, in their 
essential nature, cumulative. They continue, at any rate 
within any developing civilization, to accumulate fuller and 
deeper meanings, discarding nothing of their essence as 
their denotation changes, but growing as fast as civilization 
itself grows. By contrast, the rights and wrongs which belong 
to the realm of common sense, rather than to that of morality, 
have no abiding content, and imply no ideal development. 
They depend on successful adaptations to changing external 
conditions, and are not only derived from these conditions, 
but incapable of attaining, like moral values, to an independ- 
ent vitality of their own. As the conditions change, they 
change, not by an inner development of meaning, but by 
total supersession, sometimes, of one ‘ right * by another 
entirely different from it. 

To this realm belong the rights and wrongs which are in 
their essence responses to a technical set-up of forces. It is 
foolish, and therefore wrong, in a world dominated by the 
airplane and the wire ! ess, to go on behaving as if one were 
living in the days of the stage-coach and the post-boy on 
horseback. It is foolish, .nd therefore wrong, to maintain 
an attitude to life which ignores the discoveries of Darwin 
and Mendel and dismisses Freudian psychology as the 
ravings of a dirty-minded Jew. It is foolish, and therefore 
wrong, to continue either to believe that the world was 
created in 4004 B.C., or that its political customs have been 
fixed once and for all by a combination of nationalist and 
economic forces which are already of the past. 

This realm, of non-moral right and wrong, is a realm at 
once of necessity and of voluntary choice. Certain ways of 
behaviour are excluded altogether, or condemned to sterility 
if they are attempted, because they are fundamentally in- 
consistent with inescapable facts. Among these are many 
of the ideas of political and economic rightness at present 
most cherished by professional politicians, academic students, 


Essays in Social Theory 

and ‘ practical ’ business men. Mankind must walk between 
the walls of necessity which bound its path on either hand, 
on penalty of running its head hard and fruitlessly against 
these walls. 

But between the walls is the realm of liberty — of choice 
between really possible objectives. In choosing among 
‘ possible * courses, men are limited not by the non-moral 
conditions of their environment, bu by their own moral 
sense, which excludes some solutions, • even among those 
which are not ruled out by environmental conditions of a 
material sort. But there remain alternatives among which 
men are free to make choices which raise no clearly defined 
moral issues, or perhaps no moral issue at all. These choices 
may often depend on the relative values attached to different 
kinds of satisfaction. For example, a society can choose 
between working harder in o/der to have more material 
goods, and enjoying more leisure at the price of having fewer 
material goods. Overwork beyond a certain point doubtless 
begins to raise moral issues — and perhaps idleness beyond 
a certain point does so too — but between these points there 
is a range of choice which depends on non-moral considera- 
tions, or would do so in a really democratic society. 

This way of putting the case involves a certain over- 
simplification. For in reality the realm of morality has no 
fixed limits. In any advanced community many issues are 
moral issues to some people and not to others. Hunting 
animals for sport* is an obvious example, and eating them is 
another. Some people simply fail to understand what moral 
question there can be in matters which cause endless 
difficulty to others. Now, the social morality of any com- 
munity consists of the body of moral notions which finds 
widespread acceptance among its members, and is not 
challenged by any powerful section of its population . 1 It 
is this social morality, rather than the moral notions of 
individual citizens, that is relevant when we are considering 

1 Where one community lives embedded in another, e.g. the Doukho- 
bors in Canada, or the black population in the Union of South Africa, 
somewhat different considerations arise. But these need not be discussed 


An Essay on Social Morality 

the moral limits upon social adaptation to changing needs. 
In a continuing civilization, changes must lie within limits 
that are compatible with t^e elasticity of the current social 
morality — not with morality as it is, but with it as it can 
become without destruction of its principle of life. Any 
change which goes beyond this limit will either tear up 
society by the roots or be speedily reversed by a return to 
enough of the broken tradition to restore the possibility of 
continuous social growth. I believe that the Nazis, having 
made such a break in the tradition of social morality, were 
doomed speedily either to destroy German civilization or 
to be broken themselves* I also believe that much that has 
happened in the Soviet Union in recent years is to be 
explained as a picking up again of what was inescapable 
in the moral traditions of the older Russia — inescapable, 
whether it be in the abstract ‘ good ’ or ‘ bad ’, because men 
cannot change their morality ^ery fast without destroying it. 

As civilization advances, the realm of morality grows 
wider. Men’s consciousness of moral relationships expands : 
they learn to recognize additional duties towards their neigh- 
bours, their fellow-men, the animals, and also inanimate 
nature. It becomes immoral to desecrate natural beauty, to 
cause unnecessary pain to living creatures, not to uphold 
and practise ideas of justice and fellowship over a wider 
and wider range of hun^n relationships. The moral oddities 
of the few become the accepted ideas of the many, who come 
to recognize moral obligations where previously none were 
discerned. Tolerance of differences develops, and begins at 
length to turn into recognition that differences — within 
limits — are a source of positive advantage. Men come to 
believe that it takes not all, but many, sorts to make a 
rounded world. 

But to a hot pace of change there are, quite apart from 
the opposition of ruling classes or of vested interests, really 
formidable resistances. These resistances are at bottom of 
two kinds, though the two are seldom, if ever, clearly dis- 
tinguished. One kind is sheer reluctance to accept changes, 
even when they promise plain advantages. The psycho- 


Essays in Social Theory 

logical foundation of this reluctance is fear of the unknown — 
a fear which is deeply rooted in all men, even the most 
adventurous. There are some natural all-round adventurers ; 
but they are few. There are many more who are adventurous 
on their own ground, or within the sphere of some special 
technique or interest which they have made their own. But 
most men are very timid whenever they are ‘ off their beat \ 
Resistance to changes which involve a re-casting of social 
habits is therefore formidable, even where morality puts in 
no word of veto. 

But resistance is much stronger when fear of the unknown 
is reinforced by moral taboo. Anct, as many taboos which 
rank as moral have in truth no moral content, but are mere 
survivals of practices which had once an expediency — a 
survival value — that has long been obsolete, this stronger 
resistance may be provoked by changes, even if they belong, 
in the eyes of reasoning men* to the non-moral realm of 
‘ instrumental 9 right and wrong, and have no relation to 
true moral values. It is always the object of opponents of 
change to invest established institutions with a covering of 
morality, so as to make their supersession more difficult. 
To the extent to which this can be done, change can be made 
harder, even when it is imperatively called for by the needs 
of a developing material environment. 

There is, however, a saving difference. Resistance to 
changes which are inconsistent with the basic moral tradi- 
tions of a people persists, even if the changes are made in its 
despite. It can easily be strong enough to undo, or at any 
rate to wreck, a revolution. But where the moral element in 
the resistance is artificial and is induced by a dominant class 
or group in its own interest, it is unlikely to persist strongly 
after the class or group responsible for cultivating it has 
been overthrown. This does not cause it to stand less in 
revolution’s way ; but it docs mean that revolution can very 
speedily change such elements in the ‘ morality ’ of a people 
without provoking counter-revolution. 

It is therefore of the first importance for those who stand 
for social change to discern the difference between true and 


An Essay on Social Morality 

false social morality, in order to know in what directions 
they can safely push change to the limits of their immediate 
power, and in what others they need to stop short both for 
fear of the after-effects and because no man in his senses 
wants to force the pace of change beyond what human 
nature is fitted to endure. There is, of course, no formal 
way of dividing social ‘ morality * sharply into these two 
elements. Common sense and personal insight are the final 
instruments for telling the difference. But it can be said 
that the distinguishing quality of a ‘ true * moral idea is its 
capacity to grow and adapt itself, albeit gradually, to 
changing situations, Without losing its essential character, 
whereas ‘ induced ’ moral ideas have a static quality, an 
‘ ossification ’, that makes them readily recognizable in any 
situation which calls for rapidly changing responses — as 
revolutionary situations invariably do. ‘ True ’ moral ideas 
can bend without breaking • ‘ induced ’ moral ideas are stiff, 
and break readily under any serious strain. 

This distinction is highly relevant to the present situation 
in Europe, where the Nazi Revolution involved not only a 
sharp break with the true moral tradition of West European 
civilization, but also an attempt swiftly to replace the broken 
morality with a new quasi-morality which offended at many 
points the consciences of a large section of the population — 
at any rate among the older people. Great efforts were 
made — with much apparent success — to indoctrinate the 
younger generation with this new ‘ morality * ; but 4 moral- 
ity ’ thus instilled was bound to be stiff # and brittle, lacking 
all plastic quality. It could not be bent, but it could be 
broken by military defeat. Nor can there be any doubt that, 
now that it has been broken, the older moral tradition, which 
it was designed to replace, will be found capable of resuming 
its influence wherever it rested on deep cultural foundations 
before its development was broken off; for this tradition 
has not been destroyed but only suppressed. 

Of course, the new ‘ morality ’ of the Nazis could not 
have been induced at all unless there had been something 
in men’s minds possessing an affinity to it. It was not a 


Essays in Social Theory 

merely artificial construction, but rather an attempt to build 
upon foundations which lie in the remoter past of mankind 
— on repressed impulses and primitive urges which were 
brought back above the ground -level of consciousness by 
the earthquakes of defeat, post-war humiliation, and severe 
and prolonged economic depression. Hitler’s own mind, as 
revealed in Mein Kampf y was clearly a product of such an 
earthquake ; and he became the Fiihrer precisely because a 
similar convulsion was correspondingly affecting many other 
minds in Central Europe. It is not necessary, a la Vansittart, 
to attribute Nazism to any peculiar innate iniquity of the 
German people ; for the same undeV-man is in all of us, 
ready to be thrown to the surface if our traditional morality 
is subjected to too severe a strain. It can, however, be 
agreed, first, that the German nation, or at least the Prussian 
part of it, had never fully assimilated the moral tradition 
of long-civilized Western Europe, and, secondly, that the 
Germans are, more than ourselves, an ‘all-or-nothing’ 
people, ever ready to carry the notion ‘ if I say A, I must 
say B ’ to the bitter end of the alphabet. 

This latter factor, however, tended to make the new Nazi 
‘ morality ’ more brittle, as well as easier to inculcate, than it 
would have been among less pantodogmatic peoples. Even 
if the Germans, as a people, have never been completely 
assimilated to the common civilization of Western Europe, 
large sections among them have had a very great share in 
this civilization, and they possess a great cultural tradition 
which is essentially part of the common European heritage, 
especially in the arts. The moment Hitler’s military power 
was broken, there was a chance for these cultural forces to 
reassert themselves ; and it should have been, from the out- 
set, the governing principle of the post-war occupation 
to provide every opportunity for their re-establishment by 
the Germans themselves. There can be little doubt that 
Germany, given the right response and reception among her 
neighbours, will in due course re-enter the European moral 
system. For this re-entry, however, time will be needed, 
and the right response is a necessary condition. It is one of 


An Essay on Social Morality 

the lessons of Versailles that it is impossible for long uni- 
laterally to disarm a great nation unless it can be at the same 
time convinced that it is Toeing treated as a true partner in 
the arts of peace. 

The Russian Revolution, hardly less than the Nazi 
Revolution in Germany, involved a sharp break in moral 
tradition. But there was a vital difference. The tradition 
from which the Russians broke away was not the common 
tradition of West ‘European civilization, in which they had 
never more than superficially shared. It was the more than 
half-barbaric tradition pi Czardom — a despotic tradition in 
no wise akin to the ‘ liberalism ’ of the West, which was 
represented only by a thin veneer of Parisian fashion, Berlin 
technique, and the theoretical philosophizing of a small 
intellectual class. As against Russian barbarism, the 
Communists largely stood for the civilizing tradition of the 
West, though even in them it was unhappily modified by 
elements drawn from the barbarism to which it was opposed. 
Accordingly, the true mission of the Russian Revolution was 
to bring to the oppressed peoples of the Czarist Empire the 
gift of Westernization. But this, though it remained the 
fundamental quality of the Revolution, was partly prevented 
from happening at once by two factors — the very backward 
condition in morality and ways of living of the huge peasant 
majority in the Soviet Union, and the antagonism between 
the Socialist beliefs and practices of the Soviet leaders and 
the dominant capitalism of the Western countries. Socialism 
and capitalism were alike Western systems, belonging to the 
tradition of West European civilization. But the emergent 
Socialism of the Soviet Union, being in bitter conflict with 
the capitalism of the Western Governments, was forced into 
a partial antagonism to the morality ot the West as well. 

Marxism, with its attempt to represent morality as 
merely derivative from the economic forces, and as therefore 
merely the morality which suited the book of the ruling class, 
gave unfortunate encouragement to this tendency. It is of 
course undeniable that in any society many forms of conduct 
are inculcated as ‘ moral ’ because they serve the interests of 


Essays in Social Theory 

the established order. But it is a disastrous error to confuse 
this ‘ induced ’ morality with the true morality which forms 
an essential part of the very texturfc of civilized living. This 
error was easy for a mid-nineteenth-century German to 
make, and easier still for a Russian. But it was none the 
less a disastrous error ; and among the Russians and their 
followers in Europe the extent of the disaster has become all 
too plain in the most recent years. Up to the Munich 
ignominy of 1908 it seemed reasonable to hope that many of 
its consequences were being corrected as the Soviet Union 
settled down to the tasks of Socialist construction, and that 
the Soviet leaders were becoming a little aware of the 
difference between the two kinds of ‘ morality \ and eager 
to conserve and develop in their new order the * true ’ moral 
elements in the industrialized civilization which they were 
seeking to establish. But they were still confronted with the 
difficulty that this 4 true ’ moral tradition is not part of the 
common heritage of the Soviet peoples, and had therefore 
to be created among them. It could not be merely released 
from bondage by the destruction of Czardom : nor could it 
be merely inculcated, as the Nazis were endeavouring to 
inculcate their ‘ new morality ’, by mass indoctrination. It 
needed to be encouraged to grow naturally, as a concomitant 
of the new civilization which the Soviet Union was building 
up by means of industrial development, agricultural im- 
provement, and the spread of social services and popular 
education. Such natural growth can be greatly hastened by 
wise government ; but it cannot be forced. 

Then, alas, Soviet policy took quite disastrously a 
different turn. Convinced that the West was determined to 
divert Hitler against it, and that the moral professions of the 
Western statesmen were all a sham, the Soviet leaders re- 
treated into an exaggerated version of Marxian amoralism, 
signed their pact with the Nazis, and waited hopefully for 
both their enemies — Nazis and capitalists — to destroy 
themselves in mortal combat. There were, I agree, all too 
many excuses for this conduct — excuses which arose, in 
truth, less from the turpitude than from the cowardice and 


An Essay on Social Morality 

indecision of the leaders of Western opinion. But the 
Soviet leaders persisted in their cynicism even when the 
case for it had disappeared with the rally of the Western 
peoples in the later phases of the war ; and they brought it 
with them into the peace, mistaking American anti-Socialism 
and British semi-Socialism for the intention to wage war — 
cold or hot — upon the Soviet Union and its basic institu- 
tions, whereas it was no such thing, except in the minds of 
minorities much too weak to be able to drag their countries 
behind them, unless the Soviet Union, by its suspicious 
refusal of all real collaboration, had driven the Western 
countries in a direction which most of their citizens by no 
means wished to take. 

This disaster, for which I do not entirely blame the Soviet 
leaders, though I cannot help blaming them most, has 
resulted in dividing the world into rival moralities as well 
as into rival armed camps. * Where there could have been a 
united effort to build foundations for a common world order, 
resting on the moral and cultural values that have been 
developing towards a fuller conception of democracy in the 
West, there is now a deep moral cleavage which it may take 
generations to bridge, even if the culminating horror of a 
wwld war with atomic weapons can be averted. 

Of course there are, in the sphere of everyday living, large 
elements of common morality betw een Eastern and Western 
Europe ; and 1 feel no doubt at all that, in this sphere, the 
beneficial effects of the Revolution have been immense. The 
cleavage is not nearly so much between c>ifferent conceptions 
of what is good as about the applicability of any sort of moral 
code to political affairs. If politics are a mere superstructure 
upon economic relations, and necessarily express merely 
dominant class interests, morality can have no place in them, 
in any sense in w r hich it transcends class interest. Accord- 
ingly, the actions of capitalist States must, on this show ing, 
be interpreted solely in terms of capitalist interests ; and 
there must be a radically different code of conduct for States 
in which the proletarian class is the source of power. 
Morality, as it finds expression in public affairs, will thus 


Essays in Social Theory 

be simply a rationalization of class interest ; and there car 
be no common public morality applicable to different class 

( Such a theory involves, of course, a total denial of the 
views which I have put forward in this essay. Just as the 
Marxists deny that the capitalist oppressor State can be 
converted into the democratic welfare State and insist that 
the proletariat must set up a totally rew State in its own 
image, so they deny that the growth of public morality can 
have any continuity from one social system to another. 
They thus throw over — in theory, though never fully in 
practice — the morality of capitalist ^society and set out to 
replace it by a new proletarian morality corresponding to 
the changed social structure. This is an intelligible ob- 
jective, made the more plausible by the exceedingly back- 
ward morality of the society which the Russian Revolution 
subverted and renewed. But k is not the same thing to 
assert the need for a new morality and to deny morality 
altogether ; and this second thing the Soviet leaders do only 
because they insist that in the relations between Communist 
and capitalist States there can be no appeal to any common 
moral standard. This is what I deny, because I deny that 
class structure is the sole source of morality, though not that 
class interests have great influence in determining moral 
standards throughout the realm which I have defined as that 
of rational rather than of ultimately ethical principle. 

This denial rests on the belief that there are, for any 
civilization and fof mankind as a whole to the extent to 
which men share a common civilization, certain evolutionary 
moral standards which become by gradual diffusion and 
adoption part of the common possession of the peoples, too 
deeply rooted for any change in government or even in 
fundamental social institutions to upset them. If Russia had 
been more fully Westernized, instead of being merely 
veneered with Western ideas, before the Revolution, the 
falsity of the notion of comple# relativity, even in public 
morals, would speedily have become plain. (As things turned 
out, the thinness of the veneer of Western civilization in 


An Essay on Social Morality 

Czarist Russia made possible, and the spectacle of the Nazi 
throw-back in Germany reinforced, the belief that real 
politics could be successfully conducted only in a moral void J 

Yet the Russians, set on bringing their vast backward 
country up to date with all the material equipment of the 
West and on imitating and carrying beyond what the West 
has achieved in the health services, the care of childhood, 
the social security arrangements that are among the greatest 
fruits of Western democratic advance, must surely come to 
realize that they cannot import Western techniques and ways 
of living without importing to a large extent Western values 
as well, and thus joining East and West in a common moral 
as well as technological system. They hope, no doubt, to 
achieve this by extending their Revolution, already triumph- 
ant over half Europe and half Asia, to the other halves of 
these continents and even to America, and thus imposing 
their pattern of ‘workers’ democracy’ on the peoples where 
its impact is still being resisted. But in order to do this 
they must not merely compass the overthrow of capitalist 
governments, but also come to terms with the beliefs and 
attitudes of the Western peoples, among whom a faith in 
a moral code that transcends class differences has been 
the growth of many centuries of conflict mingled with 

Of course, I am not suggesting that the Soviet leaders, 
even if there were no ideological obstacles to hold them back, 
could even wish to bring the entire population of the Soviet 
Union within the orbit of West European civilization, or 
even of some modification of it which would incorporate 
elements drawn from their native culture. For some of the 
Soviet peoples, at any rate in Asia and probably in Europe 
also, belong to a different moral and cultural division of the 
human family. It is a matter of common agreement that the 
Soviet Union has been exceedingly successful in handling 
the difficult problem of ‘ nationalities * ; and it has been 
markedly more successful in this field in Asia than in some 
parts of Eastern Europe. This is, I think, because it is 
easier to handle the problem of nationality when it is a 


Essays in Social Theory 

question of large differences, involving a radical approach, 
than when the nationalities whose autonomy is at issue are 
fairly close together in general culture and moral tradition, 
so that the problem tends to assume an exclusively political, 
rather than a cultural, form. The Mahometan and other 
non-Christian peoples of Asiatic Russia can be endowed 
with a cultural autonomy which satisfies their national 
aspirations without raising the question of nationalism in a 
political sense. 

The Soviet Union furnishes indeed a remarkable example 
of a strong political unit which is not based throughout on a 
common culture or a common mo rill tradition, so that it 
cannot in any event become completely absorbed in any 
pan-European civilization based upon such a culture or 
such a tradition. Its natural mission is to serve as a bridge, 
or an interpreter, between the cultures of East and West. 
If it can thus interpret each cff the great culture systems 
between which it lies to the other, that surely offers to the 
future the best possible hope of a durable peace, not merely 
between the nations of Europe, but over all the world. 

Meantime, the task before both the Soviet Union and the 
West European family of nations is to complete the destruc- 
tion of the false morality on which the Nazis built their 
power. For this task there is needed not merely co-operation 
between the Soviet government and the governments of 
Western Europe, but also social co-operation between the 
peoples. Whatever the difficulties in the way, and however 
formidably the trend of Soviet policy in recent years may 
appear to be in a quite opposite direction, there is no escape 
from this necessity. The broken bridges must be rebuilt if 
both groups of contestants are not to have their civilization 
destroyed. Can it be doubted for a moment that close 
collaboration and exchange of ideas will be good for both 
parties to the exchange ? Can it be doubted that comrade- 
ship in world reconstruction between the Soviet Union and 
Western Europe could do a great deal to strengthen the 
forces which in the long run cannot but impel the Soviet 
peoples towards an acceptance of the basic ‘ true ’ morality 


An Essay on Social Morality 

of Western civilization — of the values of free speech, free- 
dom of association, toleration leading to the ready acceptance 
of differences, and of kindness and clemency in the daily 
relations of living ? Or can it be doubted that the West can 
profitably learn from the Soviet Union the immense release 
of productive and social energy which is made possible by 
common control of resources, by the abolition of class- 
parasitism, and by the unification of effort in pursuance of 
a common plan for the furtherance of human well-being ? 



Democracy Face to Face with Hugeness 1 

M en have but a short history of civilized living, and 
for by far the greater part of tKat history they have 
been used to living together in quite small groups. 
Most of the day-to-day problems thsy have been called upon 
to solve collectively have been those of neighbourhood — 
problems affecting themselves and other persons whom they 
know as individuals, or at least know about so as to have an 
insight into their needs and desires. Great States have 
existed far back in history ; ibut they have been external 
forces, acting upon the individual, but not shaped by him 
or calling upon him to play any conscious part in ordering 
their affairs. Only quite lately, over a space of time which is 
insignificant in relation to the whole span of social develop- 
ment, have ordinary men been placed in a position in which 
they are called upon to take part in decisions which involve 
the united action of millions and require a capacity for 
reasoning in generalizations which far transcend the limits 
of their practical knowledge and personal acquaintance. 

It is vital to remember this in laying our plans for the 
democracy of to-morrow ; for it is largely through forgetting 
it that the democracy of yesterday has gone wrong. Every 
man has to live through, before or after birth, the entire 
history of the human race, as well as the history of man’s 
ancestors upon the earth. He comes to citizenship trailing 
these clouds, not of glory, but of a growth neither glorious 
nor inglorious in itself, but neutral, and of ever-increasing 
potentiality for both good and evil. His whole past, the 
whole past of his ancestors, is in him, alive and ready to be 
active, though most of it remains under normal conditions 


Democracy Face to Face with Hugeness 

below the level of conscious awareness. 

The art of living together in organized communities goes 
far back in history — even beyond the beginnings of man 
as the creature he is. It is the outgrowth of a primitive 
gregariousness, as the social psychologists call it ; and men 
for most of their history have been slowly (though not un- 
interruptedly) rationalizing their ways of living together and 
developing their capacities towards higher and more differ- 
entiated forms of social control. But of late man's capacity 
to learn has been subjected to an altogether unprecedented 
strain. Into a world still relatively static in its basic ways of 
living — though, looking back on it, we can see in it the 
seeds of all that has happened since — the advanced thinkers 
in all the classes, led thereto largely by the Protestant con- 
ception of a direct and unmediated relation between the 
individual and God, projected the idea of representative 
democracy as a means of gov?rning great States. Men, they 
felt, had shown their fitness to govern themselves in small 
groups (above all in small groups of dissenters who had to 
govern themselves because they rejected the discipline of a 
universal Church) ; and there seemed no reason why, having 
achieved so much, they should not go on to govern them- 
selves collectively in greater groups, and take into their 
hands, by means of representative democracy, the govern- 
ment of the State. 

But, over the brief period in men’s history during which 
this experiment in democracy has been made, the material 
basis of living has been changing at a pace undreamt of by 
those who preached Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity in that 
dawn when Wordsworth found it bliss to be alive. Men 
found themselves called upon to master the art not of govern- 
ing the State as it was, but of prescribing for the government 
of a vast society which changed its basic structure so fast 
that the magnitude and growing complication of its problems 
outran hopelessly their capacity to learn the difficult art of 
collective control. Under the leadership of science things 
ran away with men, and the social mind w r as left groping 
further and further behind. 

9 1 

Essays in Social Theory 

Now, when problems become too big for men to under- 
stand, their actions cease to be governed by the higher 
controlling mechanisms of their, conscious minds, and the 
living past of the unconscious resumes its sway. Its pro- 
cesses are radically different from those of the conscious 
mind, above all in being both amoral and unco-ordinated, 
so that they do not reject contradiction. Nothing is easier 
than for this part of man’s mind to believe inconsistent 
things : they do not appear as inconsistent, because there 
is no active controlling mechanism to relate them one to 

This fact lies at the very root bf the failure of parlia- 
mentary democracy. Its weakness has been that it has 
presented to the ordinary man problems much too remote 
from his knowledge and experience for him to solve ration- 
ally. As he must solve them somehow, he solves them 
irrationally ; for his under min^l resumes its sway as soon as 
his upper mind retires defeated before the magnitude of the 
task presented to it. This explains not only the weakness 
and irrationality of parliamentary democracy at its best, but 
also the ease with which it has been swept aside by dictator- 
ship in one country after another. For dictatorship, in its 
appeal to the people, is neither more nor less than an un- 
scrupulous and conscious exploitation of the under mind. 

Stated in this way, the problem may seem hopeless for 
those who believe in democracy. I do not wish to deny its 
difficulty ; but its hopelessness I do altogether deny. The 
task which the democrats of 1789 called upon the ordinary 
man to shoulder was far harder than they knew ; for they 
could not anticipate the tremendously formidable pace of 
material change with its constant presentation of new pro- 
blems long before the old ones had been solved. But it was 
not, I believe, even so an impossible task : nor is it now. 
Unhappily, the old democrats, Jacobins and Benthamites 
alike, made a disastrous mistake in their interpretation of 
democracy. Their forerunners had wished to strip man 
naked before God, to throw off all the trappings of Church 
and sacrament in order to establish a direct and personal 


Democracy Face to Face with Hugeness 

relationship between the individual and his Creator. The 
political democrats set out to strip the individual naked in 
his relations to the State, regarding all the older social tissue 
as tainted with aristocratic corruption or privileged monopoly. 
Their representative democracy was atomistically conceived 
in terms of millions of voters, each casting his individual vote 
into a pool which was somehow mystically to boil up into a 
General Will. 

No such transmutation happened, or could happen. 
Torn away from his fellows, from the small groups which he 
and they had been painfully learning to manage, the indi- 
vidual was lost. He could not control the State : it was too 
big for him. Democracy in the State was a great aspiration ; 
but in practice it was largely a sham. 

Not wholly so ; for men, though this task was too big 
for them, set busily to work creating social groups which 
they could manage democratically, because the decisions 
needed in them were such as could be taken on a basis of 
real collective experience. They built up Trade Unions, 
Co-operative Societies, Friendly Societies, and a host of 
voluntary associations of every sort and kind ; and in these 
the true spirit of democracy flourished. But the State — 
Government anu Law together — was hostile to these 
natural growths of the spirit of democracy, and recognized 
them only grudgingly and perforce. They were commonly 
regarded as dangerous enemies of a democracy which was 
atomistically conceived, whereas they were in truth the em- 
bodiments of the democratic spirit in the form in which its 
realization was most within men’s grasp. 

But this vital associative life had also to contend with 
difficulties arising out of the rapidly changing material basis 
of social life. The associations had to become larger and to 
unify organization over wider and wider fields, in order to 
face their own problems on an ever-growing scale. There- 
with they became less completely democratic, threatening 
in their turn to develop the same atomistic perversion of 
democracy which was its ruin in the State. Moreover, these 
associations, each sectional and serving particular ends, 


Essays in Social Theory 

could not express the whole man, or form any adequate 
substitute for a neighbourhood group through which men 
could learn the art of citizenship in its more general aspect. 
The growth of local government did something towards 
bridging the gulf between the individual and the State ; 
and the growth of political parties with a wide popular 
membership was a second essay in mediation. But the 
political party was largely ineffective because the tradition 
of parliamentary centralism caused it to be rather an instru- 
ment organized from the top than a force surging up from 
below. Parties were not shaped by their members : they 
set out rather to order their members from above. Nor had 
the national parties that intimate touch with local govern- 
ment which might have brought them nearer to being 
instruments for the true democratic formulation of will and 
opinion from below. 

As for local government i&elf, its democratic qualities 
are very new — too new to have sunk deeply into most men’s 
minds as yet. Only very recently has local government 
acquired the powers and functions which could enable it to 
become a vital instrument for the expression of the demo- 
cratic spirit ; and most unfortunately this growth of powers 
has been accompanied by a tremendously rapid spread of 
towns which has gone far towards neutralizing the develop- 
ment of local democracy. For urban areas have both grown 
so populous and complex in their problems as to reproduce 
many of the defects of parliamentary democracy, and have 
also expanded so itiuch out of relation to the recognized areas 
of election and administration as to lose their living reality. 

Our problem in face of all these formidable difficulties is 
simple to state. It is to find democratic ways of living for 
little men in big societies. For men are little, and their 
capacity cannot transcend their experience, or grow except 
by continuous building upon their historic past. They can 
control great affairs only by acting together in the control 
of small affairs, and finding, through the experience of 
neighbourhood, men whom they can entrust with larger 
decisions than they can take rationally for themselves. 


Democracy Face to Face with Hugeness 

Democracy can work in the great States (and a fortiori 
between great States or over Europe or the world) only if 
each State is made up of a host of little democracies, and rests 
finally, not on isolated individuals, but on groups small 
enough to express the spirit of neighbourhood and personal 

It is worth while to be bombed or invaded, if only blitz 
or invasion can teach us this lesson. In blitzed cities here, 
in invaded towns and villages all over Europe, in dictator- 
ridden Germany, where the amoral unconscious has been 
invoked as an instrument of the lust for power, men and 
women did create new 4 social tissue, drawn together into 
little groups of neighbours by suffering and oppression and 
insistent human need for sympathy and collective strength. 
These little groups are the forces out of which the new 
Europe must be built, if democracy is to be its moving spirit. 
They are the nuclei of the new social consciousness on which 
alone the practical architects of the social order of to- 
morrow can hope to build a society in which men’s higher 
faculties of love and creative service will have soil to grow. 

But to-day these little groups are pitiably isolated and 
unconscious one of another. Throughout Nazi-ridden 
Europe, the primary purpose of our propaganda should be 
to feed these groups with ideas, through the natural leaders 
who have been thrown up among them, and to make them 
conscious one of another, even when direct communication 
between them is impossible. How far our propaganda misses 
this mark it would take another essay to sfoow. Here it can 
be said only that our propagandists do not appear even to be 
aiming at it. More directly relevant to my present purpose 
is the application of what I have been saying to our home 
affairs. Those of us who believe in real democracy, and not 
in its atomistic perversion which threatens us with ruin, 
must find ways of getting together and of making contact 
with the chosen leaders of the countless little groups which 
began learning to practise democratic fellowship under the 
savage impact of vrar. Wherever we can, we must live 
among these groups, learn by sharing in their experience, 


Essays in Social Theory 

and bring back lessons which we can apply to the wider 
tasks of social reconstruction. I know that I am only one of 
thousands who, in this bewildered, devastated world of broken 
illusions and obsolete formulations of faith or doctrine, are 
groping for fellowship and for new ideas or formulations, 
based on the relevant experience of the world of to-day. 
Such communications are difficult to establish. Travel is 
difficult : we are all busy with wha. seem urgent tasks : 
it is hard for men to meet and talk, and learn by that 
communion of neighbourhood of which the values often 
transcend speech. 

But the blackout is not absolute. •> We can reach out one 
to another through the darkness. What is most urgent now 
is to give those who have in them the capacity of leading a 
few the sense that there are others besides themselves busy, 
each in his own narrow sphere, about the real business of 
democracy, which is the makin^of men. Our past affiliations, 
of party or creed or class, are irrelevant to this task, save as 
means of making contacts. We, whom luck or experience 
or intellectual cunning or divine inspiration — call it what 
you will — has endowed with the inward vision of demo- 
cracy, must come together with faith and courage to pro- 
claim ourselves the architects of the new society, and to 
offer what inspiration we may to those fellow-workers, 
personally unknown to us, who have laboured, consciously 
or but half-consciously, under stress of blasting experience, 
in the cause of a democracy which will not desert little men 
forlorn and aloneMn a world whose hugeness leaves them 
shuddering and afraid of the dark. 



The Essentials of Democracy 1 

S ocial institutions have two, and only two, legitimate 
purposes — to* ensure to men the supply of the 
material means of good living, and to give men the 
fullest possible scope fo^ creative activity. It is conceivable 
that these two purposes or rather the means of pursuing 
them — - may clash ; for example, if higher production re- 
quires from men a subordination to routine processes which 
leaves no room for the sense of creative freedom. Where 
such clashes do arise, comprgmises have to be made. Men 
have to choose between their desire as consumers for a 
higher standard of material living and their desire as pro- 
ducers for a less irksome way of life. The best set of social 
institutions is that which finds the best compromise avail- 
able under the prevailing conditions. 

Who, then, is to settle what is best ? Who, but the whole 
people, who must endure for good or ill the consequences of 
the decision ? If the good life is a blend of satisfactions 
achieved from consumption and satisfactions achieved from 
successful creation, the only answer I find tolerable is that 
men themselves must decide collectively# what blending of 
these elements they like best. 

I am thus led to a belief in democracy by two routes. I 
believe in democracy because I believe that every citizen 
has a right to play a part in deciding how society can best 
be organized in the cause of human happiness, and also be- 
cause democracy is itself one of the fundamental exercises 
of free creative activity. It follows that I mean by demo- 
cracy not merely the right of a majority to have its way, but 
an arrangement of public affairs which is designed to give 


Essays in Social Theory 

every man and woman the best possible chance of finding 
out what they really want, of persuading others to accept 
their point of view, and of playing an active part in the work- 
ing of a system thus responsive to their needs. Not that, 
under any system, most people will take a continuous active 
interest in public affairs : not at all. But everyone ought to 
have a fair chance of taking an interest in them and of carry- 
ing some weight if he does take an imprest. This too I am 
sure about — that a society, whatever its formal structure, 
cannot be democratic unless a goodly number of men and 
women do take an interest in making and keeping it so. 

That is my idea of democracy. % It involves many other 
things — free speech, freedom of organization, freedom to 
develop the personality in diverse ways. It cannot mean any 
of these things without limit — for society in itself implies 
limits — but it means that the limits must be very wide. My 
idea of democracy excludes a regimented society, an indoc- 
trinated society, a society in which men are not allowed to 
organize freely for all sorts of purposes without any inter- 
ference by the police, a society in which it is supposed to be 
a virtue for everybody to think like his neighbours. My idea 
of democracy excludes too much tidiness, too much order, 
too much having everything taped. I believe every good 
democrat is a bit of an anarchist when he's scratched. 

Furthermore, my notion of democracy is that it involves a 
sense of comradeship, friendliness, brotherhood — call it 
what you like. I mean a warm sense — not a mere recog- 
nition, cold as a fiSh. I mean that democracy means loving 
your neighbours, or at any rate being ready to love them 
when you do not happen to dislike them too much — and 
even then, when they are in trouble, and come to you 
looking for help and sympathy. A democrat is someone 
who has a physical glow of sympathy and love for anyone 
who comes to him honestly, looking for help or sympathy : 
a man is not a democrat, however justly he may try to behave 
to his fellow-man, unless he feels like that. But — and here 
is the point — you cannot feel that glow about people — 
individual people, with capacities for doing and suffering — 


The Essentials of Democracy 

unless and until you get to know them personally. And you 
cannot know, personally, more than a quite small number of 

That is why real democracies have either to be small, or 
to be broken up into small, human groups in which men 
and women can know and love one another. If human 
societies get too big, and are not broken up in that way, the 
human spirit goes\out of them ; and the spirit of democracy 
goes out too. Wh^t walks in instead is demagogy — a very 
different thing. Men feel lonely in a great crowd unless 
there is someone to hustle them into herd activity. In their 
loneliness they follow the man with the loudest voice, or in 
these days, the loudest loud-speaker and the most efficient 
propagandist technique. They suck in mass-produced ideas 
as a substitute for having ideas of their own : they all shout 
in unison because they have no one to talk to quietly — 
no group to go about with, ho little world of a few people 
in which they can count as individuals and work out lives 
of their own. You can have various kinds of society 
under these conditions. You can have Fascism, or you can 
have what the Fascists call plutodemocracy. You can even 
have Communism, of a perverted sort. But you cannot have 
democracy. For democracy means a society in which every- 
one has a chance to count as an individual, and to do some- 
thing that is distinctively his own. 

Rousseau, knowing all this, thought that democracy could 
exist only in small States. The revolutionary philosophers 
who followed him thought they had solved the problem of 
having democracy in large States by the simple device of 
representation, whereby one man could represent and stand 
for many men in public affairs. But one man cannot stand 
for many men, or for anybody except himself. That was 
where the nineteenth-century democrats went wrong, mis- 
taking parliamentarism and representative local government 
for adequate instruments of democracy, which they plainly 
are not. If you think they are, ask the man in the street — 
any ordinary man who will tell you he is not much of a 
politician — what he thinks. He does not think Parliament is 


Essays in Social Theory 

democratic — even when it is elected by all the people not 
a hit of it ; and he is right. One man cannot rcall\ irpu rnt 
another — that’s Hat. The odd thing is that anyone should 
ever have supposed he could. 

So, as States get bigger, and the representative g< ts f m (her 
away from the people he is supposed to represent, till most 
of his constituents do not know him, most have never seen 
him, and quite a number cannot even tell you his name, what 
democracy there was dies out of the machinery of govern- 
ment. For what democracy there was — and there never was 
very much — depended much less on the fact that people 
elected their M.P. than on their knowing him personally, 
knowing about him, what he did and lv> s he behaved, who 
his father and mother were, and his cousins and his friends, 
how he got on with his wife, and all the rest of the things 
people know about one another in a village, but do not know 
in a big town. Villages are in many respects more democratic 
places than towns, even when they vote as the squire and the 
parson tell them. Being democratic is not iV same thing as 
holding advanced opinions. It is not the same thing as 
believing in democracy. It starts with knowing your neigh- 
bours as real persons ; and unless it starts there, it does not 
start at all. 

Of course, knowing your neighbours as real persons is not 
of itself democracy, any more than a steel ingot is a battle- 
ship, or even part of one. But this sort of knowing is part 
of the material out of which democracy has to be built. You 
cannot build democracy without it. That is what lias gone 
wrong with our modern democratic societies. All the time 
we have been broadening the franchise, and increasing 
educational opportunities, and developing the social services, 
and all the rest of it, we have been letting the very essence of 
democracy get squeezed out by the mere growth in the scale 
of political organization. It is even true that each successive 
widening of the franchise has made our system less really 
democratic, by making the relation between electors and 
elected more and more unreal. 

Men, being men, do not lie down quite tamely under this 


The Essentials of Democracy 

deprivation of democracy. They keep what they can of it 
by making, within the great societies, little societies of their 
own. They form little social groups of friends, or of persons 
drawn together by a common friendliness — clubs des sans- 
club. They organize for all sorts of purposes — recreative, 
instructive, reformative, revolutionary, religious, economic, 
or simply social — in associations and groups of all sizes. 
Hut when these groups get big the same nemesis overtakes 
them as overtakes^ the political machine. Their natural 
democracy evaporates and bureaucracy steps into its place. 
You can see this happening to the Tcaue Unions, which are 
a great deal less democratic when they have grown into huge 
national associations than they were when they were simply 
little local Trade Clubs meeting in an inn or a coffee-house, 
so that each member knew each other personally. 

Such little groups exist still — any number of them. But 
the growth in the scale of lining drives them out of public 
influence. There are fewer and fewer important jobs for 
them to do, except in the purely social sphere. There they 
remain immensely important, rescuing countless souls from 
the torment of loneliness and despair. But they do not, in 
rescuing these souls, play any part in the more public affairs 
of society. They vio not affect political or economic policies, 
or give any democrati ' character to men’s behaviour in their 
collective concerns. As a consequence, men’s public and 
private lives slip further and further apart ; and not only 
artists and other exceptional people, but quite ordinary 
men and women too, get to despising politics in their hearts, 
and to saying openly that politics are a rotten game, and think- 
ing of politics as something it will not help them to bother 
their heads about : so they had better not. Politics for the 
politicians ! That is the last corruption of a democracy that 
has knocked the foundations from under its own feet. 

In such a society, politics is apt to be a rotten game. It 
is bound to be ; for it has no roots in the real lives of the 
people. It easily comes to be either a vast make-believe or, 
behind its pretences, largely a sordid squabble of vested 
interests. In terms of vital ideas, or of common living to the 


Essays in Social Theory 

glory of God, or of the City, or of the spirit of man, it loses 
much of its meaning. That is why, in our own day, so many 
political structures purporting to rest on democratic founda- 
tions have shown neither imagination to create the means to 
the good life nor power to defend themselves against any 
vital new force, good or evil, that challenges their supremacy. 

Fortunately, there are in the countries which live under 
parliamentary institutions other eleineVits of democracy 
which are not so defenceless. The real democracy that does 
exist in Great Britain, for example, is to be found for the 
most part not in Parliament or in the institutions of local 
government, but in the smaller groups, formal or informal, 
in which men and women join together out of decent fellow- 
ship or for the pursuit of a common social purpose — 
societies, clubs, churches, and not least informal neighbour- 
hood groups. It is in these fellowships, and in the capacity 
to form them swiftly under the? pressure of immediate needs, 
that the real spirit of democracy resides. It was by virtue of 
this capacity that the workers in the factories responded so 
remarkably in 1940 to the urgent need that followed upon 
the fall of France, and that, a few months later, the whole 
people of many great cities found courage to resist the impact 
of intensive air bombardment. The tradition of British 
democracy, which goes back above all to seventeenth- 
century Puritanism, reasserted itself strongly in spite of the 
immensely powerful forces which have been sapping its 
foundations in recent years. 

This tradition *s still powerful, deep down in the con- 
sciousness of the people. Moreover, it blends with another 
tradition, on the surface antagonistic to it, and going much 
further back in the history of this country. This is the 
Christian ethic and the tradition of Christianity as a social 
force impregnating every social activity with a moral pur- 
pose. The spirit underlying mediaeval gild organization, not 
only in the economic sphere but also in many others, was 
within its limited range a true spirit of human brotherhood, 
the more intense because the groups through which it found 
expression were small and neighbourly. That kind of organ- 


The Essentials of Democracy 

ization (which, of course, touched the countryside only to 
a small extent) died out under the combined impact of 
economic revolution and religious reformation. Merchants 
intent on breaking down parochial restrictions in order to 
widen the market collaborated in destroying it with Puritans 
intent on establishing direct relations between man and his 
God without the mediation of Mother Church. Economics 
and religion set sfail together for the El Dorado of indi- 
vidualism, taking av^ay from men the small groups in which 
the older social tradition, now grown too cramping in face of 
the development of new knowledge, had been incorporated, 
and leaving the ordinary man lonelier and more afraid in a 
world too big for him to master or to find his way in. 

That, however, was just where Puritanism, transformed 
into Nonconformity, was able to reassert itself as a corrective 
force. The traders and industrialists got their way, and con- 
verted the economic terrain Into a hedgeless and fenceless 
open country of competitive enterprise. The religious re- 
formers were much less thoroughly successful because the 
traders, having won their economic victory, ceased to battle 
on their side. Lutheranism came to terms with the new 
Nation State, and converted itself in secular matters into its 
obedient instrument, saving only its right to go on, other- 
worldly, with its busin-. s of saving souls from the everlasting 
fire. Calvinism, on the other hand, after a brief reign of 
theocracy in a few places, became a focus of opposition to 
the new order, as it had been to the old. Barely tolerated in 
most countries, and seldom given any recognition, it was 
compelled in self-defence to organize itself democratically in 
small, self-governing congregations. Dissent became in this 
way one of the great schools of democracy — the only, or 
almost the only, repository of the true democratic values 
until, with the advent of steam-power and the factory 
system, working-class organization began to develop on a 
basis of small-scale, neighbourhood groups of craftsmen 
subject to a common exploitation and conscious of common 

Opposition and persecution are great levellers, and there- 


Essays in Social Theory 

fore great teachers of democracy. Success and recognition, 
on the other hand, are very apt to kill the democratic spirit. 
This is not only because, having won something, men grow 
less enthusiastic for what remains to be won. It is even more 
because success and recognition enlarge the scale of organ- 
ization, cause it to become more centralized, and diminish 
the importance of local leadership, local initiative, and the 
individual contribution of every member. Every large 
organization that is able to administ r its affairs openly 
without let or hindrance develops bureaucratic tendencies. 
It becomes officialized — even official-ridden : its rank and 
file members come to feel less responsibility for its doings. 
The spirit of sacrifice and of brotherhood grows weaker in it. 
Its tasks come to be regarded as falling upon those who are 
paid for doing them : the duty of the member comes to be 
regarded as one mainly of acquiescence in the official deci- 
sions. In a persecuted body, on the other hand, and to a 
great extent in one which is prevented by any cause from 
becoming centralized, each member is under a continual 
pressure to be up and doing. There must be, in every group, 
close and constant consultation upon policy, a constant 
sharing -out of tasks, a constant willingness to help one 
another — or, in other words, the spirit of democracy must 
be continually evoked. 

Does this mean that democracy is, in sober truth, only a 
by-product of persecution and intolerance ? These evil 
forces have, there can be no doubt, been vastly important 
in creating the democratic spirit. It is to be hoped they are 
at work, re-creating it to-day, all over Europe. But we need 
not conclude that democracies are always fated to perish in 
the hour of victory, unless we also conclude that it is beyond 
men’s power to stand out against the forces which impel 
societies towards bureaucratic centralization. If indeed 
bureaucracy is the unavoidable accompaniment of all large- 
scale organization — I mean, bureaucracy as its dominant 
force and characteristic — the game is up. But need this 

It will be, unless men are vigilantly on their guard against 


The Essentials of Democracy 

it. For both increasing population, with its accompaniment 
of increasing concentration in large groups, and the increas- 
ing scale of production make for bureaucracy. These forces 
destroy remorselessly the natural small units of earlier days 
— the village or little town, the group of workmates in a 
workshop or small factory, the personal acquaintance that 
crosses the barriers of class and calling. They convert the 
factory into a huge establishment in which it is impossible 
for everyone to knc^v everyone else, the town into a huge 
agglomeration of strangers. They compel men to travel long 
distances to and from work, and therefore to scurry away 
from the factory as soon as the day's work is done, without 
building up close social contacts with their fellow-workers. 
At the other end, they send men scurrying from home, which 
becomes more and more a dormitory rather than the centre 
of a common life. The city develops its amusement zone, 
where strangers jostle ; and i£ a man stays in his own place, 
the wireless ensures that a large part of his recreation shall 
isolate him from, instead of uniting him with, his neighbours. 

There are, superficially, many conveniences in the new 
ways of living. So many that we may take it for granted 
men will never willingly give them up. Indeed, why should 
they, when almost every one of them, taken by itself, is a 
gain ? For the disadvantage lies not in the technical changes 
themselves, but in men's failure to square up to the new 
problems of successful living which they involve. The dis- 
advantage is intangible, and not easily seen (though it is 
experienced) by the individual who is unused to taking 
general views. The man or woman who has less and less 
intimate knowledge of his neighbours, less and less intense 
participation in any small social group to which he feels an 
obligation, a less and less integrated and purposeful life, and 
less and less sense of responsibility for his fellows, does not, 
unless he is a bit of a philosopher, inquire why these things 
have happened. He may indeed be unconscious that they 
have happened, and conscious merely of a vague and un- 
identified emptiness in his way of living. But even so, if I «m 
right in believing that the void is there, he will be very ready 

Essays in Social Theory 

to respond to anyone who will offer him the means of filling 
it up. 

He will respond, for good or for evil. He will be ready to 
join an anti-social ‘ gang *, if no one offers him anything 
else. He will respond to any mass-propaganda that blares 
loudly enough at him with a message of comradeship. He 
will rally to Dr. Buchman, or to Sir Oswald Mosley, rather 
than not rally at all, when once he has become acutely aware 
of his own malaise . He wants comrades, even if they be 
comrades in enmity against something to which he has, at 
bottom, no real objection. He wants comrades, and the 
society he lives in offers him only a scurrying loneliness 
among the scurrying hosts of strangers. 

This desire for comradeship is the stuff out of which we 
must build democracy, if we are to build it at all. Build it 
and preserve it — that is what we must do. And this means 
that, in this age of hugeness, we must still find means of 
resting our society on a foundation of small groups, of giving 
these small groups a functional place in our society, of 
integrating them with the larger organizations which are in- 
dispensable for modern living, of encouraging a continual 
proliferation of new groups responding to developing needs, 
and, last but not least, of countering every tendency towards 
bureaucratization of this quintessential group life. 

How can we rest a society as huge as ours on a secure 
foundation of small, intensively democratic groupings ? This 
society of ours is based of necessity on large-scale produc- 
tion : it involves,* at any rate for a long time to come, the 
existence of huge cities ; and it is in need, in many respects, 
of even huger organization on a supra-national scale — for 
the prevention of war, for example, and for the fuller de- 
velopment of international trade and exchange. We cannot 
turn our backs on these forces : we have to accept them be- 
cause they are to-day as much a part of the given environ- 
ment as sea and land, mountains and river-valleys, heat and 
cold, and all the other things which form part of our natural 
environment. The task before us is not analogous to that of 
draining the ocean ; but it is analogous to that great victory 


The Essentials of Democracy 

of man which turned the ocean, heretofore a barrier, into a 
means of communication between land and land. We have 
to turn the very hugeness of the modern world into a means 
for the higher expression of the human spirit. 

We cannot do this by changing man's stature ; for man 
remains little, and is destined so to remain always. The 
Superman is a vain notion ; and ‘ Back to Methuselah ’ is 
another. Mark Twain once wrote that if it were possible to 
educate a flea up to the size of a man, that flea would be 
President of the United States. It is not possible to inflate 
humanity up to the size of the organizations it has made. 
But it is possible so to arrange our affairs that little men are 
not merely lost in a world too big and directionless for them 
to find their way. 

Men's easiest ways of grouping are round the places they 
live in and the places they work in. These are two bases of 
natural human relationship which can be used as bases for 
democracy. Take the factory. It is not enough for factory 
workers to belong to a Trade Union, which will represent 
them in negotiations about wages, hours of labour, and 
general working conditions throughout their trade. The 
Trade Union, under modem conditions, is necessarily much 
too remote from their working lives. Even if it is broken up 
into branches, these seldom coincide with the personnel of 
a particular factory or workshop, and are as a rule much 
more concerned with matters of national policy than with 
immediate workshop affairs. Side by side with the Trade 
Union, and perhaps largely independent 5f it, there needs 
to be a workshop group, consisting of all the workers in a 
particular shop, irrespective of their trade or degree of skill. 
This group ought to have a recognized right of meeting on 
the factory premises, its own chosen leaders, and — here is 
the main point — a right to discuss and resolve upon any- 
thing under the sun, from the conduct of a particular 
manager or foreman to the policy of the national Cabinet, 
or anything else about which its members happen to feel 

Observe that I say ‘ workshop group ’, and not ‘ factory 


Essays in Social Theory 

group \ In the case of small establishments, the factory may 
serve as a unit ; but the large factory is much too big 
to function as a primary neighbourhood group, or to have 
in it the essential quality of basic democracy. The shop 
stewards’ movement that grew up between 1915 and 1918 
was feeling after just this basic democracy. But it always 
found the Trade Union bureaucracy against it, because it 
seemed to, and did, stand for an alternative basis of social 
organization. It was truly democratic / and accordingly the 
bureaucrats were eager to knock it on the head. They did 
not object to shop stewards who kept to their ‘ proper ’ 
functions — that is, acted merely 'as subordinate agents of 
the Trade Union machine. They objected strongly to a 
shop stewards’ movement which laid claim to any inde- 
pendent initiative or showed signs of assuming a 1 political ’ 

Consider now the places in which people live. Here in my 
mind’s eye is a street of houses — or rather several streets. 
This one, a row of nineteenth-century working-class dwell- 
ings, all joined on, short of light and air and comfort and 
even of elementary requirements. This other, a street on a 
post-war housing estate, immensely superior in lay-out and 
amenity and capacity to afford the environmental condi- 
tions of healthy living. This, again, a street of shops, and 
this, not exactly a street, but a great block of flats housing 
more people than many streets. 

What is odd about these places ? The oddest thing, to 
my mind, is that the people who live in them, though they 
are neighbours with a multitude of common problems, hardly 
ever meet in conclave to consider these problems, and have 
in hardly any instance any sort of common organization. It 
is true that the shopkeepers may just possibly have some 
rudimentary association among themselves — but even that 
is unlikely. It is true that, here and there, struggles between 
landlords and householders have brought into being some 
sort of Tenants’ League, for a narrow range of purposes. 
But in the vast majority of streets there is not even the 
shadow of a social unity, joining these people together on 


The Essentials of Democracy 

the basis of their common neighbourhood. 

A second thing, not so odd but well worth noting, is that 
of these bodies of street-dwellers those who know one another 
best are pretty certain to be those who are living under the 
worst housing conditions. There is a comradeship of the 
street in a poor working-class quarter : there is usually much 
less on the model housing estate or in the model block of flats. 

I am suggesting that there ought to be for every street, or 
little group of streets, for every block of flats, and, of course, 
for every village and hamlet a regularly meeting, recognized, 
neighbourhood group, with a right to discuss and resolve 
upon anything under the sun. I am not merely suggesting 
that this ought to happen : I say it ought to be made to 
happen. Every new group of streets we build ought to have 
its little Moot Hall for such assemblies of its people, ought 
to have its little centre for their communal affairs. Personally, 
I think this Moot Hall should be also a communal restaurant 
and bakehouse, and a social club. I think it should include 
a place where children could amuse themselves, and be left 
in charge of somebody when their parents are away. I think, 
as we rebuild our cities, there should be open space round 
these centres — space for games, for sitting about, for 
children’s playing. I think we should make our Com- 
munity Centres, not m erely one to a big housing estate, 
but one to every street, or group of streets, of, say, a hundred 
or at most a few hundred households. 

But to enlarge on all this would take me too far from my 
immediate purpose. Whether these other things are done 
or not done, I am sure there must be really active neighbour- 
hood groups in every street and village before we can call 
our country truly a democracy. One reason for this is that 
there is no other way of bringing the ordinary housewife 
right into politics without interfering with her duties as 
housewife and mother. Workshop organization may come 
first in the minds of the men and young women who work 
in factories : neighbourhood groups are the key to the active 
citizenship of the wife and mother. 

It is of no use to think that we can have these groups and 


Essays in Social Theory 

confine their activities to the specific affairs of the little 
places to which they are directly attached. They must and 
will deal with these affairs, and they should be given a 
positive and assured status in dealing with them. But this 
is not their sole, or even their main, purpose. They are 
wanted most of all to serve as basic and natural units of 
democracy in a world ridden by nrge-scale organization. 
Their task is one of democratic education and awakening — 
of ensuring democratic vigilance through the length and 
breadth of the great society. Therefore they must be free, 
like the workshop Soviets, to discuss and resolve upon what 
they will. 

Soviets — I have used the word at last. Soviets, as they 
arose all over Russia on the morrow of the revolution. 
Soviets, expressing directly the common attitude of small 
groups in any important relation of life. To what extent 
such Soviets are effective ttvdav in the Soviet Union I do 
not know ; but I believe them to be much more effective as 
agents of small-scale human democracy than the critics of 
the Soviet system would have us believe. I do know that 
they existed on the morrow of the Russian Revolution, and 
were the surest expression of its democratic soul. 

These Soviets arose under stress of revolution because, 
amid the dissolution of the old despotic order, men had to 
find immediate means of standing together and articulating 
their urgent common needs. There have been faint signs of 
the emergence from below of similar bodies among those 
who remained in districts of London and other blitzed cities 
sorely stricken by war. There have been improvisations in 
reception areas, where new problems of neighbourhood, 
such as billeting, have had to be faced. But the effect has 
been small so far, because the bureaucracy has remained 
intact, and the political leaders of the new democracy from 
below have continued, on the whole, to collaborate with the 
bureaucracy, rather than work against it. A much greater 
dislocation than has yet occurred of the established machinery 
o£ administration would be needed to set the spirit of basic 
democracy ablaze among a people as used to being governed 

i io 

The Essentials of Democracy 

as ours. For our bureaucratic machine is on the whole quite 
competent at doing its job — competent and also honest. 
But it does not regard it as any part of its job to elicit 
the spirit of democracy. How could it, when the spirit of 
democracy is essentially untidy and unruly, whereas the 
bureaucrat lives by rules, forms, and pigeon-holes in which 
humanity, chopped up fine, can be neatly filed ? 

But — I hear the bureaucrats and their friends objecting — 
but it is altogether a fallacy to suppose that the ordinary 
man wants, either at his workplace or in the neighbourhood 
of his home, to be for ever talking politics. For proof that 
he docs not, go into the pubs and see. Go into the Women’s 
Institutes, the Community Centres, listen in tubes and trains 
and restaurants. Go where you will, and hear for yourself. 
It is not politics that interests the ordinary man. The 
nearest he got to politics even under war conditions was air 
raids ; and that was not politics : it was sheer personal 
concern plus sporting interest. 

Well, I know that. Most men and women are not deeply 
interested in politics because (a) they could not do anything 
much about them even if they were, given society as it now 
is ; (b) politics arc not interesting usually, until one has 
already some vcr\ strong reason for being interested in them, 
and a tolerably cleai nation of what they ought to be about ; 
(r) the politicians, or most of them, do not want most people 
to be interested, except at election times, and do not do 
anything to get them continuously interested ; ( d ) the 

bureaucrats want most people not to be interested, and will 
do their best to stamp out any organization likely really 
to express the ordinary man’s point of view ; (e) the vested 
interests do not want to have ordinary people prying too 
closely into their various concerns; (/) it is simpler to 
govern a society when most people are not interested in its 
government, and no politician or bureaucrat quite knows 
whether the people, if it took to having a mind of its own, 
would agree with him or not. It is therefore safest to let 
sleeping dogs lie. 

Need we wonder that ordinary men and women, under 

1 1 1 

Essays in Social Theory 

these conditions, are interested in politics only at rare 
moments when politics visibly and unmistakably come and 
make havoc of their lives ? There has never been since the 
great days of Athens (save perhaps for a very brief while 
in Calvin’s Geneva) a State, or even a city, whose rulers 
thought it part of every citizen’s right and duty to take a 
continuous and active interest in political affairs. 

I do not go so far as that. All I ask. is that we should 
set out so to organize our new societies as to encourage every 
citizen to become politically conscious, and to believe in 
democracy as a precious possession of the people. And I 
assert that, in these days of huge Slates and huge-scalc pro- 
duction, there is no way of doing this except by building 
upon a foundation of small neighbourhood groups, territorial 
and economic, because such groups alone have in them the 
essential qualities of unmediated, direct democracy based on 
personal contact and discussion, and on close mutual know- 
ledge and community of small-scale, immediate problems. 
That only is democracy’s sure foundation : given that, we 
can, I believe, safely raise upon it what towering skyscrapers 
we please. 

1 12 


Rousseau’s Political Theory 1 

T here is no political thinker, except perhaps Plato, on 
whom so many different interpretations have been put 
as on Rousseau. I cannot hope to escape from the 
charge, made against so many others, of putting my own 
personal interpretation on his work. Nor shall I even attempt 
to escape it ; for I propose to begin by telling what it was 
that made Rousseau a great influence on my own thought, 
and led me, first to translate and edit Du contrat social , and 
then to begin writing a big book about him as my first major 
piece of academic work. Th 5 t book, broken off short by the 
outbreak of the first World War in 1914, remains the frag- 
ment it was at that point ; for I have never been able to 
make up my mind to go back to it. But I set out to write 
it in the belief that Rousseau had something of special value 
to contribute af-ish to contemporary political and social 
thought ; and I still hold to that view. 

What first captured my imagination in Rousseau was his 
much attacked notion of the General Will ; and therefore 
I propose to begin with that. 1 found the notion, as set 
forth in Du contrat social, confusing as well as attractive ; 
and I did not profess fully to understand it. What attracted 
me was that it put right at the heart of social thought the 
notion of will, rather than so passive a notion as ‘ consent ’ 
or so objectionable a notion as obedience of the subject to 
the commands of a human superior. This will , as Rousseau 
stated the matter, was not the will of a ruler, or a group of 
rulers, or even the will of all the citizens as men. It was 
clearly a special kind of will, present to some extent in every 
citizen, but distinguished from the rest of the individual will 

1 13 

Essays in Social Theory 

of each citizen by a quality of generality. It was that part 
of the will, in an individual or in an assembly of individuals, 
that was directed to the furtherance not of individual private 
interests, but of the general advantage of the entire group 

I did not fully understand this until, after reading the 
Social Contract , I went on to study Rousseau’s other writings. 
I found the clue to what he meant — or t$> what I think he 
meant — in a passage in the article ‘ Political Economy ’, 
which he contributed to the great French Encyclopedia. In 
that passage, which I cited in my Everyman Introduction 
to the Social Contract (I also included the entire article to 
which I am referring in the Everyman volume) — in that 
passage Rousseau was discussing not the State or Govern- 
ment in particular, but the much wider problem of human 
association in all its forms, lie was insisting that men, 
whenever they form or connect # themselves with any form of 
association for any active purpose, develop in relation to the 
association an attitude which looks to the general benefit of 
the association rather than to their own individual benefit. 
This is not to say that they cease to think of their own 
individual advantage — only that there is, in their associative 
actions, an element, which may be stronger or weaker, of 
seeking the advantage of the whole association, or of all its 
members, as distinct from the element which seeks only 
personal advantage. This element is the individual’s con- 
tribution, in his associative behaviour, to what Rousseau 
calls the moi comma n of the association. I 

I am sure this notion is vitally important. If no such 
attitude existed among men, they could not act in association 
with any degree of sustained success, either in associations 
for particular purposes on in the great association which is 
called ‘ the State \ Whether this element of what Rousseau 
calls 4 general will ’ be strong or weak in men — and it is in 
fact strong in some and weak in others — I am sure he is 
right in holding that it always exists — in everyone, as a 
necessary element in the human make-up. All men have 
loyalties — of one sort or another. 


Rousseau's Political Theory 

Rousseau says that a general will, made up of the elements 
of ‘ generality ’ in the individual wills of the members, exists 
in every association — at all events, in every one in which 
there is any call on the members to decide or to act. But he 
says also that such general wills are general only in a relative 
sense. *They are general in relation to the associations which 
call them into existence ; but they are particular, and not 
general, in relation to society as a whole. Conceiving of the 
State as a great general association to which all associations 
within its frontiers are subordinate, Rousseau holds that all 
the general wills of these associations are merely particular 
wills in relation to the* General Will (with capitals) of the 
whole Society, which he identifies with the General Will of 
the Sovereign State \ 

I shall come later on to^the question^whether Rousseau was 
justified in thus asserting the subordination of all other forms 
of association to the Sovereign State, and in differentiating 
between the mainly relative generality of other associative 
wills and the allegedly absolute generality of the General 
Will attached to the State.^ For the moment I am concerned 
only with his contention that every kind of active association 
generates in its members a will which is different from their 
private, individual wills, and may conflict with them, and 
that there are degre* of generality, corresponding to the 
scope of the associations u ith which the wills are connected, 
and to the nature of the ties which bind the members to 
these associations. 

\£p be surest he re is an ambiguity in Rousseau’s thinking 
even at this point. When he speaks of the moi cotumun that 
develops in each association, he comes near to asserting that 
the associations possess personality in a sense that involves 
the existence of a ‘ group mind I confess that I am not 
sure how far he meant this, or even whether he meant it at 
all. It is, of course, one thing to say that there exists in 
men individually an element of will which can cause them to 
will the good of a group to which they are attached, and quite 
another to attribute the possession of a common will tq the 
group as a whole in any other than a metaphorical sense. 

Essays in Social Theory 

But there is also between these two positions a possible third 
position, which without asserting the existence of a ‘ group 
mind ’ does affirm that groups, no less than men individually, 
can take decisions which lead to action and can thus present,^ 
from the standpoint of the effects produced by these decisions, 
social consequences which can be regarded, without undue 
straining of words, as the outcome of group willing, even if 
the action and the willing are always made up of the actions 
and willings of the individual members. Tn this limited 
sense, if not in a fuller sense, Rousseau did assert the im- 
portance of group willing ; and the most significant part of 
his assertion was the emphasis which* he put on the entry into 
such acts of willing by the individual as member of a group 
of an element different in nature from purely individual 
willing, because it involved the factor of group solidarity, 
or of loyalty to the group.) This was a conception which was 
later to be developed much fcurthcr by Durkheim, in the 
stress which he laid on the influence exerted by group and 
society patterns on the conduct and willing of social man. 

At any rate, I took from Rousseau this notion of every 
active group or society as tending to develop a ‘ will of its 
own ’, distinct from the private wills of its members. This 
involved the conception of the presence in each individual 
of a duality, or rather a plurality, of wills, or of will-elements, 
contributing to the formulation of decisions to act. It meant 
regarding each man as having in him, not only the will to 
pursue his own advantage or well-being on a lower or a 
higher plane (I shill come back later to this question of the 
planes of individual motivation), but also the will, based on 
a sense of loyalty or obligation, to act for tl*£ collective 
benefit of any group to which he belonged. An the Social 
Contract , Rousseau was applying this same notion when he 
spoke of ‘ the tendency of all governments to deteriorate ’ by 
substituting the will of the government itself for the will of 
the entire society which it was supposed to represent. The 
government, Rousseau considered, had as a group a moi 
comjnun of its own, distinct from the greater moi common 
of the whole society over whose affairs it had surveillance. 


Rousseau's Political Theory 

Governments thus tended to turn into conspiracies against 
the public, instead of serving as guardians of the general 

As saw, Rousseau regarded all other 1 general wills 
as falling to the status of particular wills in relation to the 
greater General Will of the State. In the Social Contract, 
which he described as no more than a fragment of the more 
inclusive work he had formerly set out to write, he was 
concerned mainly — indeed almost exclusively — with this 
greater General Will which he regarded as the legitimate 
will of the whole society. Like the lesser ‘ general wills ’ of 
other associations, this General Will of the Society is some- 
thing present in greater or less degree in each individual 
citizen, according to the extent of his patriotism, or public 
spirit. It is not, however, the whole of the will of all the 
citizens, or perhaps of any one of them. It contends in the 
citizens for mastery both against purely private * wills ’, or 
will-elements, and against the general-particular wills, or 
will-elements, generated by the existence of partial groups 
or associations. In the extraordinary passage in which he 
sets out to show how, in a properly ordered society, the will- 
elements that are in conflict with the great General Will tend 
to cancel out one against another, leaving the elements that 
are in harmony with he great General Will to determine 
the issue, Rousseau is trying to find a way of reconciling the 
prevalence of good in the social order with the presence of 
anti-social elements in the attitudes of the citizens. In 
another passage, he comes directly to the {fart of this problem 
which arises out of the presence of particular-general wills 
emanating from partial associations. It is best, he says, in 
order to eliminate this cause of misbehaviour in the society, 
to allow no partial associations at all to exist ; but, if this 
is impracticable, let them be as numerous as possible, in 
order that they may be the more certain to cancel out one 
against another, just as he thinks the purely private will- 
elements in the citizens will tend to cancel out. 

Of course, this will happen, on Rousseau’s showing, only 
in a well-ordered society. Unless the society has good basic 

1 1 7 

Essays in Social Theory 

institutions there can be no assurance that it will not become 
the prey of organized sectional interests powerful enough to 
prevent the General Will from finding effective expression. 
For, if one or more sectional groups are so strong that their 
influence cannot be cancelled out by that of other groups, 
there can be no assurance that the decisions of the body 
politic will express the General Will. Accordingly Rousseau 
postulates a society both small and compact enough for the 
individual citizens to take a direct part in its control, and 
also an absence of extremes of privilege or inequality that 
would prevent the citizens from acting sufficiently in a dis- 
interested spirit. The Social Contract is meant to be the 
bible of small Societies — of a modern version of the ancient 
CTt5 r StafeT'"A large part of its fundamental doctrines simply 
ceases to apply when the State is too large for the individual 
to fulfil directly the role of active citizenship. 

At this point it becomes necessary to get as clear as possible 
the meaning of the sharp distinction which Rousseau draws 
between the exercise of sovereignty and of government. 
r‘ Governmen t ’ in Rousseau is a word of special, restricted | 
meaning. We habitually use the word in two senses— ■ 
/either to mean the whole machinery of State, including the 
Constitution and the law-making process as well as the 
administration, or alternatively to mean the executive arm, 
or, even more narrowly, the Cabinet and the lesser Ministers 1 
as distinct from the Civil Service. Neither of these senses' 
corresponds to Rousseau’s usage. When he says ‘ govern- 
ment ’, he means primarily the magistrates — the holders of 
public office of every sort, -including the judicial as well as. 
the administrative machine, but not including the whole of 
what we think of as the legislature. For it is fundamental 
to Rousseau’s thought to draw a sharp distinction between 
two things both of which we habitually regard as belonging 
to the sphere of legislation. These are, on the one hand, the 
making of the fundamental laws which govern the whole 
social system, and on the other the making of decrees and 
ordinances which apply these fundamental laws to particular 
cases or to particular persons or groups. The making of the 


Rousseau's Political Theory 

fundamental laws, and nothing besides, is legislation in 
Rousseau's sense ; and it is an act of the sovereign people — 
of all the citizens — and cannot be delegated to any repre- 
sentative assembly or body of magistrates, though it can 
exceptionally be handed over to a ‘ legislator when it 
becomes requisite to equip a society with a completely new 
constitutional code. Laws, in Rousseau's usage, are the 
formulation of constitutional principles, and it is of their 
essence to apply to everyone on equal terms, and not to deal 
at all with particular cases, or individuals, or groups. Legisla- 
tion is the act of the sovereign people, or of a legislator 
designated by it to act on its behalf ; and in a legitimately 
founded society, every individual citizen must be entitled 
to take part directly in the legislative process. In this sphere 
of direct individual civic action, and in this sphere alone, 
does Rousseau suppose the General Will to find direct ex- 
pression. He nowhere suggests that there can be any assur- 
ance that the General Will will prevail except when the 
citizens are acting directly as individuals in their sovereign 
capacity as ‘ legislators ’ in this highly special and limited 

For Rousseau ‘ government ' includes every form of 
political activity that is not a direct activity of the whole 
body of citizens. Thv. great mass of what we ordinarily call 
legislation, passed by representative assemblies or ordained 
by magistrates, he regards as consisting, not of laws, but of 
decrees or ordinances belonging to the realm of particular 
applications and not of fundamental law. It is of the essence 
of such measures not to apply equally to all members of a 
society, but to bear differently on different persons and 
sections. Where this is the case, in Rousseau's view, the 
conditions that tend to ensure the supremacy of the General 
Will no longer apply, both because there is no longer the 
same basis for impartial voting as where every voter is 
aware that the law he helps to pass will apply to himself 
equally with everyone else, and also because all representative 
bodies and magistrates have wills of their own which they 
tend to substitute for the General Will. 

Essays in Social Theory 

Thus, Rousseau drew a sharp distinction between the 
sphere of direct, individual civic activity, to which his con- 
ception of the General Will directly applied, and the sphere 
of ‘ government \ to which it could apply only in an inferior 
and derivative sense. The two spheres were connected, 
because the choice of the ‘ government ’, including both 
representative assemblies and magist/ates, was an act of the 
sovereign people and accordingly fell within the domain of 
the direct exercise of the General Will. If the General Will 
prevailed in the choice of assemblies and magistrates, the 
acts of government would reflect this, and would be broadly 
consistent with the dictates of the General Will ; but if the 
sovereign people, without willing wrongly, allowed itself to 
be * deceived ’ in the choice of its leaders, the leaders would 
proceed to substitute their individual or group wills for 
the General Will, and the ‘ government ’ would fail to 
express even indirectly the "general will of the sovereign 

I have stated this point at some length, because it is so 
often misunderstood. Rousseau did not, as is often said, 
reject representative government : what he did was to reject 
representative sovereignty , and to assert that the function of 
legislation — fundamental legislation, that is - — could never 
legitimately be delegated, but only exercised directly by the 
entire body of citizens. Hence his insistence on the small 
State, all whose citizens could assemble together for delibera- 
tion and decision. But, of course, the French Revolution 
gave his doctrine of the sovereignty of the people an entirely 
different meaning, by transferring the exercise of sovereignty 
from the assembled citizens to a national assembly chosen to 
represent them — which was precisely what Rousseau had 
said could never be done. No one could represent the 
citizen in his sovereign capacity : sovereignty was inalienably 
and indivisibly placed in the assembled people, attending 
individually and acting as individuals under the direct im- 
pulsion of the General Will. 

It could, of course, be argued that Rousseau’s kind of 
sovereignty, which reposed inalienably in the individual 


Rousseau's Political Theory 

citizens, had no contribution to offer towards the solution 
of the political problems of the modern world, dependent as 
these were on the great State, and that it was therefore 
legitimate to reshape Rousseau’s doctrine to fit the conditions 
of the populous and extensive Nation State. Even if it was, 
the reshaping involved a fundamental transformation of the 
entire doctrine. It removed the centre of sovereignty from 
the people acting -as individuals, and transferred it to the 
collective acting in its corporate capacity through a repre- 
sentative assembly. What had been in Rousseau an affirma- 
tion of the inalienable rights of the individual citizen to an 
equal voice in the settlement of the foundations of the social 
order was thus transformed into a denial of the rights of the 
individual in face of the collective. Clause after clause of the 
Declaration des droits de Vhomme et du citoyen , while pre- 
serving the phraseology of individual human rights, goes on 
in the second half of each sentence to subordinate these 
rights to the requirements of the nation, as defined by 
the representative assembly. This is no mere change of 
emphasis : it is a fundamental revolution in thought. It 
affirms precisely what Rousseau had passionately denied — 
that men could legitimately be obliged by a will which they 
had no direct part in expressing. In place of a State made 
up of co-operating sc *reign individuals, associated by the 
General Will active in each and all, it put the very different 
notion of the Sovereign State, in the hands of a government 
holding supreme power over the individuals. In such a 
system of social structure, the individual might still be 
dignified by the name of ‘ citizen ’ ; but he was in fact, in 
Rousseau’s conception, simply a subject, as much as in any 
autocratic regime that rested on dem ing him all political 
rights. Rousseau had asserted the supremacy of a State 
that effectively included as rulers all its individual members, 
and had rested his justification of the State’s supremacy on 
the fact that each citizen was binding and being bound in 
equal measure with all the rest. The assertion of the 
sovereignty of an elected assembly, however chosen (evei} if 
it were to be chosen by universal suffrage), was a declaration 


Essays in Social Theory 

in favour of the totalitarian State, in which the rulers were 
authorized to ride rough-shod over personal liberties in 
enforcing their conception of the General Will, as modified 
by their particular wills as a governing group. 

When this had happened, and the idea of Rousseauism 
had become inextricably entangled with that of the new 
revolutionary regime as expressed ii the Declaration , it was 
inevitable that Rousseau’s doctrines should come to be 
widely misunderstood. For what he had said of ‘ govern- 
ment *, in the restricted sense he gave to the term, came to 
be understood as applying to ‘ government ’ in a much wider 
sense, including what Rousseau -had distinguished from 
‘ government ’ as the exercise of sovereignty. The con- 
ception of the General Will, which had been that of a 
will-element present in every individual citizen, came to 
be transferred to the representative collective assembly, as 
standing for the people ; syid the ‘ people ’ came to be 
thought of as a collectivity embodied in the machinery of 
State, and not as a number of free individuals meeting 
together to shape their common affairs by deliberation and 
decision guided by the General Will. 

In one sense, the effect of this transformation was to 
make the doctrine of popular self-government more demo- 
cratic than it had been in Rousseau. For Rousseau had not 
insisted on democratic government, but only on popular 
sovereignty. In his view, it had been fully consistent with 
popular sovereignty for the sovereign people to set up an 
undemocratic fc&m of government. Monarchy, aristocracy, 
and democracy had all been legitimate forms of government, 
provided that they were confined to the sphere of govern- 
ment, and did not usurp the sovereign right of the whole 
people to be the only source of laws, as distinct from par- 
ticular decrees or ordinances. Government, for Rousseau, 
had been essentially a derived power, limited to action under 
the laws directly voted by the whole people ; and it had 
been merely a matter of expediency, and of time and place, 
whether this derived authority could best be exercised by 
many, or by few, or by one alone, and what means should be 


Rousseau's Political Theory 

used in assigning and separating the powers of government, 
or in laying down conditions for the holding of magisterial 
offices, or indeed in arranging any of the powers of govern- 
ment. The confounding of the functions of sovereignty 
and government, on the other hand, led to an insistence that 
government, in order to be legitimate, must be democratic 
and must serve to express the popular will. It led to a 
challenge to the claims of monarchy and aristocracy over the 
entire field of political action, and served as the foundation 
of the nineteenth-century European doctrine of political 
democracy based on popular representation. But the 
assertion of the necessity for democratic government, and 
not only for popular sovereignty, carried with it the implica- 
tion that the sovereignty belonged to the government, and 
not the government to the citizens. 

It is of the first importance for the understanding of 
contemporary politics to realise that this transformation of 
the doctrine of popular sovereignty into that of totalitarian 
democratic government never took place in the United 
States. The United States took its fundamental constitu- 
tional ideas not from the French Revolution, but from the 
English Puritans, from John Locke, and from Montesquieu 
and Rousseau — not from the Declaration des droits de 
rhomme or from t: • totalitarian tendencies that were 
strengthened in France by the Revolutionary Wars. The 
Americans still habitually think of the Constitution and of 
Constitutional Law as one thing, and of government as 
another thing which includes the ordinary act-making 
process and also the ‘ Administration \ They do this, not 
only because they have a written Constitution and a federal 
system, or because they have preserved the notion of the 
‘ separation of powers * which the Founding Fathers derived 
mainly from Montesquieu, but also because they still think 
of the ultimate power as residing in the individual citizens 
rather than in any representative body. I am not suggesting 
that this distinction is the same as Rousseau’s distinction 
between sovereignty and government. By no means. {Jut 
there is this in common — that both affirm the individual, 


Essays in Social Theory 

rather than the collective, as the final source of all political 

Yet, it may be said, in at any rate one respect, Rousseau 
did show a highly totalitarian tendency. He asserted that, 
though the State would not, in the exercise of the General 
Will, intervene in all matters affecting the lives of the citizens, 
it must nevertheless be the sole and final judge of the limits 
of its intervention. The citizen, Rousseau held, could set 
no limits on the range of the powers which, by virtue of 
being a citizen, he resigned into the hands of the State ; for 
sovereignty was by its very nature unlimited, as well as 
indivisible and inalienable. As a matter of expediency and 
common sense the State, Rousseau held, would set limits to 
its intervention ; but it must be sole judge of these limits. 

Admittedly, this has a totalitarian ring ; but let us bear 
in mind that Rousseau said it, not of the government, but of 
the sovereign people. According to his view, the people 
could limit the functions of government as much as they 
pleased : what they could not limit was their own power to 
define these limits. In defining them, Rousseau argued, the 
people would be guided by the dictates of the General Will, 
which would warn them sufficiently against endowing the 
government with excessive powers, and against using their 
own sovereignty to excess. In practice, Rousseau was an 
advocate of a restricted exercise of the State’s power ; but 
he could not, in consistency, allow anyone except the 
assembled citizens to define the frontiers between collective 
obligation and personal freedom. 

This insistence on unlimited popular sovereignty did, 
however, lead him to take up an uncompromising attitude of 
hostility to the claims of any other bodies, besides the 
Sovereign State, to impose obligations upon the individual. 
In the sections of the Social Contract in which he dealt with 
the relations between Church and State, and also in the 
‘ Confession du vicaire Savoyard ’ in Emile , Rousseau 
appeared as the exponent of an uncompromising Erastianism. 
This, if he was to be consistent, he had to do ; for to admit 
the Church’s claim to independent authority would have 


Rousseau's Political Theory 

been utterly at variance with his conception of popular 
sovereignty resting on all the citizens deliberating and voting 
as individuals inspired by the General Will. If sovereignty 
resided thus inalienably and indivisibly in all the citizens, it 
could no more belong to the Church than to the ‘ Govern- 
ment * ; nor could the sovereign people entrust the exercise 
of subordinate political authority simultaneously to two 
unco-ordinated and potentially conflicting agencies — the 
Government and the Church. There must be one deriva- 
tive political authority, responsible to the sovereign people ; 
and this body could not be the Church, because the Church, 
by the very nature of its ‘Claim to be the interpreter of God’s 
will, could not accept the office of being a mere administrator 
of an authority derived from the people. Accordingly, for 
Rousseau, the only acceptable kind of Church was an 
Erastian Church, acting as the subordinate agent of the 
secular power, and preaching «a social doctrine fully con- 
sistent with the secular conception of the sovereignty of the 
people. Such a Church was, in effect, not an independent 
religious foundation, but the educational arm of the State, 
devoted to the inculcation of sound social doctrine and to the 
fostering of the General Will in the minds of the people. 

This notion of the relations between Church and State 
was a denial of all ad; ssion of political pluralism ; but it was 
not totalitarian, in any permissible sense of that much- 
bandied word. It was not totalitarian, because the under- 
lying purpose was not that of subordinating the individual 
to the State, but lather that of preserving <the final right of 
the individual against all institutions in the exercise of his 
fundamental sovereignty. Rousseau’s General Will no 
doubt went to the making of Hegel’s totalitarian political 
philosophy, as one of the ingredients ; but in using 
Rousseaus notion of the General Will as he did, Hegel 
turned it into something entirely different from what 
Rousseau had meant it to be. 

Let us try to see how this happened, and how, much 
later, it became possible for Bosanquet, in his Philosophical 
Theory of the State , to present a version of Rousseau’s 


Essays in Social Theory 

political doctrine that bore very little resemblance to the 
original. Rousseau’s conception, as we have seen, was that 
of a will, or rather a will-element, present in every citizen, 
that looked to the well-being of the whole society and 
preferred that well-being to the individual’s own in the 
exercise of political sovereignty. Immanuel Kant took this 
notion from Rousseau, and transfei r ed it to the sphere of 
Moral Philosophy, making of it his notion that ‘ there is 
nothing good except the good will \ Kant’s categorical 
imperative was Rousseau’s General Will restated in terms 
of personal ethical behaviour. The objectivity which Kant 
affirmed as a characteristic of the 4 'Real Will ’ as contrasted 
with the subjectivity of the purely private practical judge- 
ment was simply an ethical version of Rousseau’s contrast 
between the General Will and the ‘ Will of All ’. 

Then came Hegel, to translate Kant’s Ethics back into 
Political Philosophy. Hegel *iid this by transferring Kant’s 
‘ Real Will ’ from the individual, whom he regarded as 
incapable of transcending his subjectivity by the aid of his 
own private reason, to the State, which he erected into the 
embodiment of objective reality — the ‘March of God on 
Earth ’. The General Will thus reappeared as an attribute 
of the State itself, and not as belonging to the individual 
citizens, who could participate in it only by surrendering 
themselves into the absolute power of the State. Super- 
ficially, this surrender bears an apparent resemblance to 
Rousseau’s complete surrender of powers by the individual 
citizens under thfc terms of the Social Contract. Actually, it 
is something entirely different ; for, whereas in Rousseau’s 
version the citizens simply combined their rights, each re- 
taining his share in their future formulation and application, 
in Hegel’s version the surrender involved no such return as 
Rousseau regarded as justifying the surrender. In Hegel’s 
version, the individual lost his rights and merged himself in the 
higher objectivity of the State as a reality of a superior order, 
whereas, in Rousseau’s, he remained the very foundation on 
wljich the State was built, and helped equally with others 
to shape the State, instead of being shaped by it as by an 


Rousseau's Political Theory 

impersonal, all-transcending metaphysical power. 

Perhaps it may be thought that I am overstressing the 
difference between the two views. I do not think I am ; for 
I believe no difference in Political and Social Theory to go 
deeper than that between the view of the State as a higher 
metaphysical entity and the rival view that the State is simply 
an instrument for the collective action of the individuals who 
are its citizens. In the conflict between these two views, I 
believe Rousseau, with all his ambiguities, to have been 
ranged as decisively on the one side as Hegel, with all his 
obscurities, was on the other. What has concealed this is, 
above all else, the identification of Rousseauism with the 
notions of representative national sovereignty that found 
expression in the French Revolution. I agree, however, that 
Rousseau’s ways of expression lent themselves to this mis- 
interpretation of his meaning ; and I do not deny that, in 
certain moods, he came dangerously near to slipping over 
into a metaphysical conception of the State — but only on 
condition that the State in question should be of a very 
peculiar kind. 

I mean by this qualification that Rousseau did hold that, 
in a particular ki^d of State, which he believed to be ideally 
the best, the social bonds between the individual citizens 
would be so close tha , for all practical purposes, they would 
completely agree about the basic institutions they preferred 
and the way in which they chose to be governed. Idealizing 
Sparta, as so many eighteenth- century thinkers did, devoted 
to the notion of the City State small enough to allow every- 
one to participate directly in public affairs, and holding the 
rationalist belief that there must be one right answer to every 
question and that good and well-brought-up men could be 
relied on to find it out if their minds were not perverted 
from the search, Rousseau thought that, in a State which 
complied with these requirements, the general will in each 
citizen would have pretty much the same content, and 
would prescribe pretty much the same decisions : so that the 
General Will of the whole society would be simply a w/it- 
large version of the general will in the mind of each citizen. 


Essays in Social Theory 

In this sense, he did idealize the State, but only because he 
idealized the individual citizens. The individual would 
recognize the General Will of the Society as his own will, 
even if his particular will dissented from its precepts. 

I am conscious that I may be taken to task, in what I 
have just said, for calling Rousseau a ‘ rationalist ’, despite 
his vehement opposition to the intellectualist rationalism 
which was the prevailing creed of his time. It is, of course, 
perfectly true that Rousseau put immense emphasis on 
sentiment, as against intellectual reason, as a force in the 
shaping of human affairs, and that his trust in social solid- 
arity rested on the strength of community sentiment, and 
not merely on that of intellectual conviction. But this does 
not at all invalidate what I said ; for Rousseau did also hold, 
as much as any of his contemporaries, the rationalistic 
conviction that all good men, if sufficiently enlightened, 
would agree, and this is all 1 asserted. His stress on senti- 
ment led him to insist that the process of enlightenment 
would not of itself make men good, and that they would use 
their reasons for good social purposes only if they were led 
to do so by a strong impulsion of the sentiment of social 
solidarity. This induced him to insist that the General Will 
could operate effectively only in a rightly constituted 
society — by which he meant a society small enough for the 
citizens to be friends and neighbours as well as political 
associates, and homogeneous and equalitarian enough not to 
be torn asunder by internal factions. 

These notion^ of the social bond are closely connected 
with Rousseau’s conception of the springs of conduct in 
man, whenever his behaviour is not perverted by evil 
institutions. Rousseau’s social psychology is best expounded 
in his essay on The Origin of Inequality , which, as well as 
the article on ‘ Political Economy \ I included in my Every- 
man edition of Rousseau’s political writings. He there 
distinguishes between two mental attitudes, which he calls 
respectively amour de soi and amour-propre — the latter 
being in his view a perversion of the former engendered by 
bad social institutions. The ‘ natural man ’, he contends, 


Rousseau's Political Theory 

is animated by amour de soi — a sentiment of self-respect 
which implies a recognition of equal claims on the part of 
other men, or at least of other members of a common 
society. Amour-propre , on the other hand, is a sentiment of 
exclusive self-love, involving a denial of equal claims on the 
part of others, and rising to a dominant position wherever 
unequal social institutions set men to the defence of privilege 
or of exclusive right, or to the aggrandizement of their 
position by enlarging their wealth and power. Rousseau 
connects the rise to dominance of this second sentiment with 
the development of private property, with its essentially 
exclusive pretensions, fie regards a society in which there 
exist gross inequalities of wealth, or the opportunity to 
become rich at the expense of others, as incapable of good 
social living, and as therefore fatal to the effective expression 
of the General Will. For it is on the preponderance of 
amour de soi over amour-propre in the minds of the citizens 
that the very existence of social solidarity depends, and there- 
with the vitality of the General Will. This is, of course, a 
view which rests on a belief in men’s natural goodness, in 
the sense that, in the absence of social institutions which 
definitely foster the growth of anti-social impulses, men’s 
natural impulses towards solidarity will impel them to a 
recognition of social justice. This is Rousseau’s form of the 
social optimism of the eighteenth century : it differs from 
the optimism of the intellectualists in resting the faith in 
man, not mainly on the progress of rational enlightenment, 
but on a primitive social impulse that has been only overlaid 
by bad institutions, but not destroyed. 

Practically, however, Rousseau’s optimism has narrow 
limits ; and these limits are set by his belief that only in 
small, directly acting societies can the natural goodness of 
man find means of successful expression in the art of living. 
This, paradoxical as it may seem, is why he lays so much 
emphasis on State Sovereignty. In the draft which he made 
for a projected work on Principes du droit politique , intended 
to range over a much wider field than the Social Contract, 
Rousseau addressed himself to the problem, which the Social 


Essays in Social Theory 

Contract leaves undebated, of the relations between State and 
State and of the possibility of a great society, wide enough 
to give expression to the unity and solidarity of the entire 
human race. He discusses this same group of problems in 
his commentaries on the Polysynodie of the Abbe Saint- 
Pierre and on the same writer’s Projet de paix perpetuelle . 
His conclusion is pessimistic, despite his optimistic view of 
man’s nature ; for he cannot believe thafr in large societies, 
even if their basis be federal and their units small, the 
individual can bring to public affairs that direct personal 
participation in the absence of which the General Will will 
be smothered by the particular o ft sectional wills of the 
governing groups entrusted with the conduct of the common 
business. The Sovereign State which Rousseau exalts is not 
the great Nation State, but the State of a small, closely-knit 
civic community of equal citizens ; and if the Nation State 
is altogether too big to serve as an instrument for the ex- 
pression of the General Will, so a fortiori is the international 
State or Federation. Accordingly man, by the limits of his 
nature, must resign his hopes of building the World State 
to express the common sentiment of all mankind ; and 
Rousseau adduces a second argument against the federal 
unity even of all Europe — that, in order to achieve it, men 
would have to wade through such rivers of blood as to 
destroy in the process the social life that they have contrived 
to establish, and would ruin humanity in attempting its inter- 
national reconciliation. 

Rousseau wa £ not a nationalist ; but his ideas went to 
the making of the new belief in national sovereignty, vested 
in the entire people, but exercised by a sovereign repre- 
sentative assembly, which the French Revolution proclaimed. 
He was not a believer in representative government, save in 
a very limited sense ; but his notion of the General Will was 
transferred by his successors from the citizens, in whom he 
held it to exist, to the elected politicians, to whom he most 
emphatically denied it. He was a believer in the virtues of 
the, small community ; but his conceptions have been applied 
mainly to great States, to which he regarded them as in- 


Rousseau's Political Theory 

applicable. No doubt, it happens to many thinkers to have 
their doctrines put to uses they were far from intending ; 
but I think this happened to Rousseau to an exceptional 
extent, and in such ways as to make it exceptionally difficult 
to recapture his real thought. At any rate, when I read other 
people’s studies of Rousseau’s political work, I am nearly 
always surprised at finding what they make of him — 
surprised, nearly svery time, with a different surprise. 


The Rights of Man ' 

T he Declaration of the Rights of Man, issued by the 
French Revolutionary Assembly in 1789 and later in- 
corporated word for word in the Revolutionary Consti- 
tution of 1791, is one of the great dociynents of history. When 
such a document is in the hands of men, it is altogether too 
much to expect them to agree, either about its fundamental 
meaning and practical implications, or about its sources of in- 
spiration and its claims to originality. It is, therefore, not at 
all surprising that there has been a great deal of dispute, both 
about the meaning and about the historical origins of the 
Declaration des droits de Vhomme et du citoyen. It has been 
said again and again to have been essentially a translation of 
the teaching of Jean-Jacques Rousseau into the terminology 
of the Revolution in its formative phase, or a product of the 
French enlightenment of the eighteenth century ; whereas 
others have characterized it no less unequivocally as an echo 
of the American Declaration of Independence, which pre- 
ceded it by a mere thirteen years. How far it was any of 
these things we shall be able to see better when we have 
studied its main i^ieas and enunciations of policy. 

We can perhaps best begin by asking why any such 
Declaration of Rights was felt to be needed. It was not so 
felt by all the members of the assembly. Not only were 
there rival drafts — several of them — of which, if time 
allowed, it would be interesting to compare the scope and 
purport : there were also some in the assembly who argued 
that it would be preferable to have no Declaration at all, and 
to proceed straight to the business of constitution-making 
without any enunciation of fundamental principles. The 


The Rights of Man 

great majority, however, did want a Declaration, as a sym- 
bolic act as well as a proclamation of the principles that were 
to be embodied in the new constitution of the French State. 
Moreover, this desire was made plain in many of the cahiers 
on the claims of which the Declaration was largely founded. 
The majority wanted this particular piece of symbolism, I 
feel sure, largely because there had been an American 
Declaration and because that Declaration had been a forth- 
right challenge to the hitherto received ideas of statehood 
and of the nature of the social bond. Yet they were by no 
means certain at the outset quite what they did want, and 
the declaration embodied in the English Bill of Rights a 
hundred years earlier was in their minds hardly, if at all, 
less than the Declaration of the American Republic. 

Yet these two Declarations — the English and the 
American — were essentially different, not merely in scope 
but in their theoretical implications. The Bill of Rights 
embodied nothing in the nature of a philosophical theory 
either of the rights of man or of the rights of citizenship. It 
was conceived in terms of particular rights that had been 
invaded, rather than of human or civic rights in general ; 
and, so far from seeking a new foundation for the State or 
for society, it aimed at emphasizing and ensuring the con- 
tinuity of English institutions rather than at replacing one 
entire system of authority by another. The Americans, on 
the other hand, issued their Declaration as part of the process 
of constituting a new State — if ‘ State ' is the right word 
when the question was rather that of making a Federation of 
States each endowed with its own structure of sovereignty. 
The Americans, in proclaiming their independence of 
George III, were in a measure forced to go back to first 
principles and to assert as unequivocally as they could the 
very foundation on which their new establishment was to 
rest. The English in 1 688 9 were not founding a new State — 
much less a new society : they were only asserting their 
right to change their government for what seemed to most 
of them — or to most who counted — a sufficient cause. 

The French in 1789 stood midway between these two 


Essays in Social Theory 

positions. Unlike the Americans, they were not construct- 
ing a new sovereign State or confederation : they were re- 
constituting a State already existing and with a very long 
tradition behind it. But, unlike the English, they were not 
merely changing the government, but also carrying through 
a far-reaching social revolution. They were setting out, 
indeed, to alter the structure of society much — very much 
— more than the Americans had done*; and they felt a 
corresponding need to define the social as well as the political 
foundations on which the new structure was to rest. The 
Americans were in a position to accomplish most of what 
most of them wanted by simply striking away their depend- 
ence on England and the English Crown and by refashioning 
the existing constitutions of the separate colonies and super- 
adding a loose (for it was loose at first) federal structure, 
which alone was new. The French needed to go a great 
deal further because they were making a revolution not merely 
against royal absolutism but also against an omnipresent 
system of feudal and ecclesiastical privilege, and therefore 
needed to lay down for themselves, and for the whole world, 
the basic principles of the new social system that they were 
determining to set up. 

This difference of need largely accounts for the essential 
difference of character between the French and American 
Declarations. The Americans, in the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, were concerned with the ‘ rights of man ’ mainly 
as political and constitutional rights — above all, the right 
to set up their own self-government. The language in 
which they did this was indeed that of the fundamental 
rights of man, both as individual and as member of a society 
of men. But only a small part of the text of the American 
declaration is devoted to these matters : by far the greater 
part of it is an enunciation of the grievances which were 
held to justify the American people in breaking away from 
Great Britain and establishing their own independent 
political structure. In effect, most of the matters with which 
the French Declaration had to deal fell, in the nascent 
United States, within the jurisdiction not of the confedera- 


The Rights of Man 

tion but of the independent States of which it was made up. 
It is therefore not at all surprising that there are much closer 
resemblances between the Declaration des droits de Vhomme 
et du citoyen and certain Bills or Declarations of Rights 
drawn up by the individual North American States — for 
example, Virginia — than between the French Declaration 
and the Declaration of Independence itself. Some historians, 
such as Professor Jellinek in his book on the subject, have 
gone so far as to suggest that these * Declarations of the 
separate States served as the main models for the French 
Declaration des droits de Vhomme ; and I do not deny that 
the influence existed, especially with Thomas Jefferson of 
Virginia in Paris to serve as a link. Nevertheless, I think it 
as misleading to attribute the Declaration to American in- 
fluence as to father it upon Rousseau or upon the French 
enlightenment. It rested in truth upon no single influence, 
but upon many ; and in its hesitations and minglings of 
barely, if at all, reconcilable doctrines it was a product of 
the actual historical situation in which it was felt necessary 
to draw it up, and to do so with the least possible delay. 

The very title of the Declaration provides a clue to its 
double character. It is a proclamation of rights — rights of 
two kinds — rights belonging to men as men , that is, 
primarily, as individuals by virtue of their humanity, and 
rights belonging to these same men (or at any rate to French- 
men) as citizens. In other words, it deals both with private 
or personal and with political and social rights ; and, dealing 
with both kinds of rights, it has also to attompt a reconcilia- 
tion between them. Indeed, it embodies an attempt not 
merely to reconcile but to combine these two kinds of right 
into a single system of rights which the new social order is 
to guarantee ; and that, as we shall see, could be no easy 

The Declaration , in its historical significance, is an asser- 
tion of tw r o things — or perhaps of three. It asserts, first, 
that the nation, consisting of the citizens, is the supreme 
authority, not only as against the king, or against the privi- 
leged orders of the old regime, but also as against la France 


Essays in Social Theory 

itself — that is, as against any impersonally conceived 
authority of the national tradition. It asserts, unequivocally, 
the right, which Burke most furiously denied, of each 
generation of Frenchmen to govern themselves by the light 
of their own intelligence and not to be governed by any 
impersonal power save that of right reason in their own 
minds. It thus challenges not only the conception of the 
State as belonging to the King, or to any authority resting 
on prescriptive claims, but also that of State-right conferred 
by the sanctity of a national tradition derived from past 

Secondly, the Declaration asserts that all men, by virtue 
of their humanity, have an equal right to well-being and the 
pursuit of happiness. Leonard Woolf, in After the Deluge , 
has admirably brought out the essential newness of this 
claim, as emanating from any great and widely influential 
authority, and therewith the immensity of the change in the 
climate of opinion which was connoted by the widespread 
acceptance, even in general terms, of so far-reaching a 
statement. He is unquestionably right in saying that, 
though this notion had been entertained before and ad- 
vanced on more than one occasion as a political challenge — 
witness Colonel Rainborough’s famous remark about the 
‘ meanest he ’ reported in the Clarke Papers — never before 
1789 had it been enunciated as the creed of a nation or as 
the basis for a Constitution in process of being drafted. 
There had been no hint of it in the English Revolution of 
1688, and no acceptance of it, though there had been hints 
earlier, in the making of the Commonwealth. Even in the 
American Revolution, though it had appeared explicitly 
in the wording of the Declaration of Independence and of 
the Virginian Bill of Rights, under Jefferson’s influence, it 
had constituted much less of a challenge because it had 
seemed to most people to emerge out of the conditions of a 
society so different in its structure from the societies of the 
Old World as to involve no clear application to them. The 
United States had, no doubt, at the time of the Revolution, 
a de facto aristocracy of landowners and merchants ; but it 


The Rights of Man 

had no politically privileged noble caste to get rid of, and it 
did possess socially many characteristics of a democratic 
way of life, especially in the New England townships. It 
had, moreover, apart from its black slaves, very little of a 
proletariat, in the sense of a class permanently and evidently 
committed to a status of political and economic inferiority. 
It therefore seemed natural or inevitable that the Americans, 
in establishing their new Commonwealth, should base it on 
notions of political equality, at any rate in principle ; and in 
practice each State was left to settle its own franchise and it 
was not till the middle of the nineteenth century that, blacks 
and poor whites apart, • anything approaching adult male 
suffrage was actually applied throughout the Union. Jeffer- 
son’s phrases, however sincerely meant, did not become the 
operative basis of the American political system without 
large qualifications. If their challenge nevertheless reacted 
powerfully on Europe, that waj rather by giving a new turn 
to the debate concerning the proper basis of political associa- 
tion and sovereignty than by administering a direct shock 
such as was involved in the proclamation of the same doctrine 
of human rights as a sequel to the outbreak of the French 

Thirdly, the authors of the Declaration assert that the 
sovereignty which bel- ngs of right to the ‘ nation ’ — that is, 
to the citizens — is exercisable on their behalf by a popularly 
elected representative assembly. It does this, not by direct 
assertion, but by implication. In the first place, it exalts the 
law, which it describes as V expression de lo volonte generate. 
Then it goes on to say that ‘ tous les citoyens ont droit de 
concourir personnellement ou par leurs representants a sa forma- 
tion ’ — that is, the formation of the laws. Personal par- 
ticipation in law-making and indirect participation through 
representative government are thus put on a parity as means 
of expressing the general will — which is precisely what 
Rousseau, for example, had denied they could legitimately 
be. As Paine recognized in his Rights of Man , this assertion 
of the final legislative power as belonging to a popularly 
elected assembly, rather than exclusively to all the citizens 


Essays in Social Theory 

acting personally, made a vast difference. It was a clear 
proclamation of the principle of popular sovereignty as 
exercisable by the instrumentality of democratic parlia- 
mentary government. 

These three proclamations of principle, in favour of 
popular sovereignty, equal human rights, and represent- 
ative democracy, together constitute the Declaration's most 
important challenge. There was, however, as every com- 
mentator who was not immediately carried away by them, 
as Paine was, has recognized, an ambiguity at the very root 
of their fusion into a single democratic doctrine. For, if 
men have certain ‘ natural, inalienable, and sacred rights ’ 
(in the words of the preamble), what is to happen if the 
sovereign people or nation, acting directly or through 
representatives, fails to respect these rights ? It can of 
course be declared that governments and States are (or 
should be) instituted for the protection and furtherance of 
these rights (a la American Declaration), or, a la Declaration , 
the rights may be stated in a constitutional document ‘ afin 
que cette declaration, constamment presente d tons les membres 
du corps social (including the representatives and the govern- 
ment) leur rappelle sans cesse leurs droits et lenrs devoirs ' ; 
but this is no guarantee against the invasion of rights which 
are presented as sacred and as inalienable by the sovereign 
people, or by a representative assembly chosen by democratic 

Thus, in a logical sense, the proclamation of natural 
rights, as Bentham pointed out in his comments on the 
French Declaration , clashed with the proclamation of the 
sovereignty of the nation. (III. Le principe de toute souve- 
rainete reside essentiellement dans la nation. Nul corps , mil 
individu, ne peat exercer d y autorite qui nen emane expressive- 
ment.) On this ground the English Utilitarians would have 
nothing to do with natural rights, and insisted that every- 
thing should be referred to the principle of utility and 
decided in accordance with 1 the greatest happiness of the 
greatest number *, a principle which, in the history of 
Utilitarianism, preceded and was at the outset independent 


The Rights of Man 

of any belief in political democracy. It was a standard for 
governments, however constituted ; and only long after he 
had formulated this principle did Bentham come to the view 
that the best way to get it applied as an operative standard 
was universal or manhood suffrage = representative demo- 
cracy. This, J. S. Mill saw, involved the possibility that 
a majority might override a minority with consequences 
contrary to the greatest happiness principle, and also that 
the happiness of a superior minority (or series of minorities) 
might be disregarded. This, however, would depend in the 
French view on the extent to which the State failed to live 
up to the prescribed respect for ‘ natural rights \ The 
French authors of the Declaration thought that in practice 
they could reconcile natural rights with popular sovereignty 
and representative government by refusing to set any 
absolute limits to the State’s power, but at the same time 
enjoining it to limit its activity to furthering the welfare of 
the whole without imposing restrictions on the individual 
that were not plainly requisite for this purpose. This, of 
course, is precisely what Rousseau had said when, refusing 
to limit sovereignty and insisting on the complete transfer 
of individual rights involved in the social contract, he 
nevertheless insisted that the sovereign State ‘ cannot im- 
pose upon its subjects any fetters that are useless to the 
community, or even wish to do so ’ ( Social Contract , Bk. II, 
Ch -4)- 

The text of the Declaration is an attempt at this practical 
reconciliation. It opens with an assertion that * men are 
born and remain free and equal in rights and that accord- 
ingly 4 social distinctions can be based only on common 
utility \ Note that it does not say that there should be no 
distinctions. It admits the utilitarian case for them, once it 
has been affirmed that the basic principle is that of equality 
of rights. But already by implication it gives to the demo- 
cratic State the right to establish social distinctions in the 
supposed common interest. This means that the State 
power, guided by utilitarian considerations, can override 
the natural equality of men ; but it still leaves equality 


Essays in Social Theory 

as the presumption and distinctions as something needing 
exceptional justification. It thus repudiates altogether the 
view generally held through most of human history, that 
some men have, quite apart from social utility, a greater 
claim to happiness or to privileged rights than others. It is 
thus basically democratic, but it differs from the American 
Declaration in putting the last word in the hands of the State, 
and not with the ultimate rights of the individual qua man. 

Clause 2 seems to take this back by asserting categorically 
that ‘ the end of all political association is the preservation of 
the natural and imprescriptible rights of man ’ (the latter 
word means in effect ‘ not liable to lapse with disuse, how- 
ever long ’). These rights are then specified as 4 liberty, 
property, security, and resistance to oppression \ So far it 
appears that any government which invades these funda- 
mental rights ceases to be legitimate, and can legitimately 
be overthrown. 

Next, however, in Clause 3 we get the unequivocal 
assertion that sovereignty resides in 4 la nation ’, and that all 
authority, personal or corporate, is valid only if expressly 
emanating from this source. ‘ Expressly ’ here means on a 
basis of popular decision or election. 

Then comes the attempt to define the first of the ‘ natural ’ 
rights proclaimed in Clause 2 — Liberty. ‘ Liberty \ we are 
told, ‘ consists in being able or empowered to do anything 
that is not harmful to others \ Thus, 1 the exercise of the 
natural rights of each man has no other limits than those 
which ensure to ,the other members of the society the enjoy- 
ment of these same rights ’. But there must be some authority 
to apply this precept in practice to the conditions of any 
particular time and place. So the Clause goes on, ‘ These 
limits can be determined only by [the] law ’. Law is thus 
proclaimed, as it had often been before against tyrants, as 
the guardian of liberty — of the rights of man. But what is 
law ? It had been thought of through most of history much 
less as something made by men than as something interpreted 
and handed down, resting on time-honoured tradition, even 
if modifiable in particular respects by current legislation. 


The Rights of Man 

The leaders of the Revolution could not be expected to think 
of it in this way. They were in revolt against the laws of the 
French State as it had been, and were busy making new laws 
to embody the principles of the new order. It was therefore 
necessary to define law and its source. But before this 
Clause 5 comes in, to limit the province of law in the interests 
of personal liberty. 1 The law has the right to forbid only 
acts which are harmful to society. Nothing that the law 
does not forbid can be restricted [empeche], and no one can 
be constrained to do what the law does not command.’ 
Thus, there is to be, it is hoped, a large realm of liberty of 
conduct in which neither law nor government intervenes. 
But again, though the point is not explicitly repeated, there 
must be an authority, which can be only the authority that 
makes the laws, to define the range of interference and non- 

Clause 6 proceeds to say what law is. ‘ Law is the ex- 
pression of the general will.’ That this is not a piece of 
metaphysics the rest of the clause makes clear. ‘ All the 
citizens ’, it says, ‘ have the right to participate [concourir\ 
personally or through their representatives in its making.’ 
Thus law is clearly something made by the people in the 
exercise of its sovereignty, not something handed down from 
the past and interpre»ed by a special class of wise men 
(judges). This is a fundamental notion, for it makes the 
4 law ’ under which men live not something above the 
government (in a wide sense) but a creation of the govern- 
ment. Thus, the protection of natural rigtits by the law is 
the protection of these rights by the sovereign people — not 
against the government or the sovereign people. The 
sovereign people become the sole interpreter of natural 

Clause 6 then goes on to discuss the quality of law, 
as distinct from its source. 4 It ought to be the same for all, 
whether it is protecting or punishing.’ There are to be no 
privileges before the law r , even for those who are given 
distinctions on grounds of utility. Then comes what seeyns 
an abrupt transition, when we are told, in the same clause, 

Essays in Social Theory 

that ‘ All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are 
equally admissible to all dignities, public places, and employ- 
ments, according to their capacity, and with no other dis- 
tinction than that of their virtues and talents \ In other 
words, the making and execution of the law are to be in the 
hands of any citizen who can command the confidence of 
his fellow-citizens, and it is assume d that this confidence 
will be accorded to the most virtuous and talented. 

From this point the Declaration proceeds in Clause 7 to 
lay down certain principles which are to govern the execution 
of the law. There is to be no arbitrary arrest, or accusation : 
all such processes are to follow legally prescribed rules. 
Anyone who 4 solicits, furthers, executes, or causes to be 
executed ’ an arbitrary process is to be punished ; but every 
citizen arrested or summonsed in accordance with the law 
is to 4 obey instantly ’ : resistance to lawful force is 1 culp- 
able \ On this follows in Clause 8 an affirmation that the 
law should exact only necessary penalties and that no one 
should be punished except by virtue of a law already in force 
and promulgated before his offence, and also legally applied. 
Everyone is to be pronounced innocent till he is found 
guilty (Clause 9), and any rigour not needed to ensure his 
detention should be severely repressed by the law. All this 
is directed primarily against particular abuses of the old 

Then, in Clause 10, we return to more general principles. 
No one should be subject to interference [inquiete] on 
account of his opinions, including his religious opinions \ but 
there is the proviso 4 provided that their manifestation does 
not disturb the public order established by law’. Here 
again, public order is the final criterion, subject to the legal 
basis of it, and the right to 4 manifestation * of opinion (not 
to opinion itself) is made subordinate to the law. Then, in 
Clause 11, a general declaration in favour of the 4 free 
communication of thoughts and opinions ’ as 4 one of the 
most precious rights of man \ is complemented by a straight 
assertion that every citizen should be able to speak, write, 
and publish freely, 4 except that he must answer for the 


The Rights of Man 

abuse of this liberty in cases determined by law \ In effect, 
there is to be no prior censorship, but the law is to have 
the last word in limiting the freedom of speech, writing, and 
publication — the law being that made by the sovereign 
people or by its representatives. 

Then comes the long-disputed question of the armed 
forces. The anti-government critics had been accustomed 
to protest against # a standing army as a danger to popular 
liberty ( e.g . controversies in England after 1688). The 
French Revolutionaries, however, recognized the need for a 
public force to uphold the new order — a force which would 
belong, not to a despot or an aristocracy but to the people. 
It is thus asserted that ‘ this force is instituted for the ad- 
vantage of all, and not for the particular benefit of those to 
whom it is entrusted \ This is in effect an assertion that the 
armed forces of the State must be fully under the authority 
of the representatives of the nation, and must not constitute 
an independent power, or be in practice subject to the 
executive rather than to the sovereign legislative power. 

The Declaration then proceeds to the question of taxa- 
tion, both for the upkeep of the armed forces and generally. 

‘ Une contribution commune est indispensable * : it must be 
equally shared out among all the citizens, in relation to their 
‘ facultes ’ = abilities ‘o pay (Clause 13). Then in Clause 14 
it is laid down that all taxes must be levied with the assent 
of the people or its representatives, and that these must be 
entitled also to 1 follow the use made of the public revenue 
so raised and to settle the amount, the allocation, the methods 
of collection, and the duration of the taxes \ 

Clause 15 reaffirms more explicitly the principle already 
implied of the accountability of all public agents. All this, 
arising largely from the cahiers , is a statement of the means of 
redressing grievances widely felt under the old regime. 

Finally came two general clauses, enumerating principles 
of constitutional structure. In Clause 16 it is affirmed that 
1 Any society in which the guarantee of rights is not assured 
and the separation of powers determined, has no constitu- 
tion \ This is a curious clause, plainly the outcome of a 


Essays in Social Theory 

s tmggl e . The first part of it is an attempt to reaffirm the 
ultimate validity of the rights of men, as against a possible 
assertion even of democratic State authority at their ex- 
pense : the second, animated by the same motive, echoes 
Montesquieu’s insistence on the ‘ separation of powers ’ as 
a means of safeguarding liberty by way of checks and 
balances. But in what degree was a separation of powers 
really compatible with the principle of national sovereignty ? 
This principle, with its insistence on the law-making 
authority of the legislature, reduced the judiciary, though 
independently elected by the sovereign people, to an inter- 
preter of laws made by the legislature, rather than of a tradi- 
tion of law occasionally modified by new legislation. The 
old theory of law as existing apart from legislation, though 
modified by it, was not consistent with the felt need to make 
a new code of laws corresponding to the aims and attitudes 
of the new order. Moreover, the executive (which was left 
with the Crown) was reduced to an execution of policies 
determined by the legislature, and the Revolution was under 
the greater need to assure its subordination because at this 
stage it was leaving the executive authority in the hands of 
the King and of ministers appointed by the King and 
allowed only to speak and not to sit or vote as legislators. 
The British form of parliamentary government was not 
accepted : the ministers were made not independent but 
subordinate to a legislature, which could tie their hands and 
instruct them by decrees as well as by laws. 

Finally, Clause 17 dealt with the rights of property. 

‘ Property being a sacred and inviolable right, no one can be 
deprived of it, except when public necessity, legally estab- 
lished \constituee \ , plainly requires this, and subject to the 
condition of a just and predetermined [prealable ] compensa- 
tion [indemnite ] .* Thus the right to property as such, though 
not to any particular piece of property, is declared as a droit 
de Vhomme valid even against the State ; but it must be borne 
in mind that this declaration was made by the very men who 
were abolishing without compensation feudal rights and 
privileges. Propriete here means, then, not claims to income, 


The Rights of Man 

hut property in a real sense, and at that property recognized 
by the new order as valid after the elimination of feudal dues 
and corporative privileges. It is the property of the peasant 
and the industrialist, not that of the feudal landowner or 
financial claimant, that is regarded as sacred and inviolable. 
The cahiers make this plain. Take, for example, the cahiers 
of Paris-beyond-the-Walls, where it is said, 4 We demand the 
passing of a fundamental and constitutional law, declaring 
that all men are born free and have an equal right to security 
and property in their persons and in their goods \ This 
same statement of claims goes on to draw a distinction 
between valid and invalid property rights, the invalid rights 
resting on privileged claims to feudal or other superiority 
and the valid rights on what a man possesses by virtue of 
his own efforts and not through the concessions of arbitrary 
power. The cahiers of Paris-within-the-Walls put forward 
much the same point of view, and again and again in the 
cahiers from other areas the distinction between valid and 
invalid property rights is made to rest on a conception of 
the droit naturel. It was in no unlimited sense that the 
National Assembly of the French people upheld the rights 
of property. 

There the Declaration ends, having said nothing to define 
one out of the four fundamental rights of man laid down in 
Clause II, and having dealt with only an aspect of another. 
Liberty and Property have been made the subject of particular 
declarations : security has been dealt with only in its aspect 
of security against arbitrary arrest, punishment, and taxa- 
tion : the right of resistance to oppression has not been 
discussed at all. 

As for security, the Constitution of 1791 did something to 
amplify the Declaration , which it incorporated. The First 
Title, dealing with ‘ Dispositions fundamentals garanties par 
la constitution \ laid down that ‘ There shall be set up and 
organised a general establishment of secours public [public 
assistance] to bring up abandoned children, to relieve the 
infirm poor, and to provide work for the able-bodied poor 
who have been unable to procure it for themselves \ Thus 

Essays in Social Theory 

was enunciated the doctrine, not only of public assistance to 
the non-able-bodied, but also of the 4 right to work ’ — a 
doctrine which was to have a long subsequent history in 
France (« e.g . in 1848). The same Title of the Constitution 
prescribed that there should be a system of * Public Instruc- 
tion common to all the citizens, free in respect of those parts 
of learning w T hich are indispensable for all men \ 

I do not propose in this essay to enter, into a description 
of the terms of the Constitution of 1791, which was the direct 
sequel to the Declaration. For this I have no room ; but I 
must refer to one feature of it — its interpretation of the 
term ‘ citizen \ The Declaration had dealt with the rights 
of men as such and with the rights of citizens, and had 
proclaimed the sovereignty of the nation as involving the 
participation of the citizens in the making of the law and in 
the exercise of final sovereignty. Were the 4 nation ’ and 
4 the citizens * merely collective and individualized ex- 
pressions for the same people, or were 4 citizens ’ a restricted 
class ? The Constitution was extremely liberal in its treat- 
ment of resident foreigners, whom it admitted easily to full 
citizen rights ; but it did not go to the length of universal 
suffrage, even for French people. To begin with, though it 
admitted women as possessors of civic rights (in itself a great 
innovation) it did not accord them the right to vote. The 
Constitution distinguished between two kinds of citizens, 
active and passive, the latter in enjoyment of legal and 
human, but not of political rights. Besides women, it ex- 
cluded from actv/e citizenship all under 25 years old, all 
persons without a legal domicile in a canton, all persons who 
did not pay a direct tax equal at least to the value of three 
days’ labour, and all persons 4 in a state of domesticity *, that 
is to say, 4 serviteurs a gages ’ — i.e. under a contract of 
service. This was derived from old French precedents. 
It also required every elector to have taken 4 le serment 
civique ’, that is, an oath of allegiance to the new order. 
This exclusion of 4 serviteurs a gages ’ was mainly directed 
against retainers of the old landlords, but it applied also to 
wage-workers in industry as against artisans working on 


The Rights of Man 

their own, or as subcontractors for a merchant. Such 
persons were regarded as unable to cast a free vote, because 
they were under undue influence, and were therefore ex- 
cluded from active citizenship. This restriction was swept 
away in the Constitution of 1793, which also reduced the 
voting age to 21 ; but the revolutionary wars caused this 
more liberal Constitution to be set aside without ever 
coming into foree. Thereafter the various Napoleonic 
Constitutions and voting systems reintroduced the distinc- 
tion between active and passive citizens and introduced 
various forms of grading or indirect election in several 
stages ; but I have no space to follow the intricacies of these 
later constitutional changes. My point here is that, even 
apart from the case of women, the Constitution of 1791 did 
not fully implement the idea that man as man is entitled 
to full civic rights as well as to equality before the law and 
to enjoyment of the fundamental rights of man. 

In the light of this necessarily cursory survey, we can 
come back to our original questions. The Declaration was 
not the setting forth of a body of philosophical doctrine, 
either based on Rousseau or derived from the American 
example or founded on the ideas of the French enlighten- 
ment. It was a medley of influences, the product of a series 
of compromises — if ou will, a hotch-potch. Nevertheless, 
its philosophical shortcomings did not prevent it from 
enunciating a point of view which was clear, as well as 
challenging, enough to provide a foundation for a world- 
wide movement in the direction of detnocracy, and of 
democracy strongly tinged with humanitarian individualism, 
even though it was also pregnant with collectivist implica- 
tions. If we compare it with English- made Utilitarianism, 
we are confronted (</) with the French insistence on the 
rights of man , which the Utilitarians sharply repudiated, 
and ( b ) with the fact that both doctrines affirmed the ultimate 
right of the people, through representative institutions, to 
make and ensure the enforcement of laws designed to pro- 
mote the happiness of the greatest number, but each qualiiied 
the practical exercise of this ultimate right in a different way 


Essays in Social Theory 

— the French by insisting on the sanctity of individual 
rights, the Benthamites by insisting that, in practice, the 
State had best keep its hands off the economic life of the 
nation. Except to the extent of acting as the protector of 
‘ legitimate ’ property rights (not monopolies or privileged 
claims to income without service), each of these attitudes in 
practice qualified the supremacy of th * State, and prevented 
the total character of the claim advanced on behalf of the 
‘ people ’ or ‘ nation ’ from being clearly perceived. Never- 
theless, both doctrines — Utilitarianism and the democratic 
doctrine of the Declaration — were in logic claims to an all- 
overriding power of the majority toT do, through its chosen 
representatives, whatever it or they believed to be for the 
good of the whole. Thus, the French Declaration was able 
to serve as a basis for the totalitarianism of the Revolution in 
its later phases and of the Napoleonic war regime ; and 
Utilitarianism was able, in an environment of rapid economic 
development, gradually to change sides and become, in the 
name of the greatest happiness principle, the advocate of 
increasing State intervention, first in public health (Chad- 
wick) and then over a much wider field (exemplified by 
Dicey in his Law and Opinion and in the neo-utilitarianism 
of the early Fabians). 

Meanwhile the Americans, having set out from a Declara- 
tion of rebellion and of the 4 rights of man ’ as related most 
directly to the right to rebel against their government, had 
enunciated a doctrine which put the rights of individuals in 
the first place, ancl treated government merely as a means to 
their protection and furtherance : so that there was no 
assertion either of the right of the assembled people, or of 
its representatives, to do whatever they believed useful for the 
people in the name of utility, or to act as the final interpreter 
and delimiter of the individual rights of man. On the 
contrary, out of Puritan influence the fathers of American 
independence developed a deeply individualist doctrine 
which put the final court of judgement in the individual 
conscience, and therewith ruled out all possibility of un- 
equivocal assertion of democratic etatisme. The conse- 

1 48 

The Rights of Man 

quences of these differences of attitude and approach are 
very much alive in the world to-day. The British are still 
predominantly Utilitarians, the French etatistes in theory 
who preserve in practice a deep sense of the right of the 
individual to disobey the State, even while they endow it 
with sovereign and universal powers ; but the Americans 
believe in a State which merely or mainly holds the ring, while 
the greater part of the life of the community goes on inde- 
pendently of its doings. The newer things that have arrived 
since these three new winds of doctrine began to blow 
about the world are, first, the Hegelian mystique of the 
transcendent State, whi^h led on to Fascism, and, secondly, 
the Marxian total claim on behalf of the class as against the 
nation — a claim also tinged with the Hegelian mysticism 
in which Marx was brought up. But of these I can say 
nothing in this essay. 1 have been trying only to dis- 
entangle the essential character of the challenge of 1789. 

There are still two points on which T must say a word. It 
is remarkable that the Declaration , in imputing all authority 
to the nation, disregarded entirely the claims of any fraternite 
extending beyond the national unit. This was not because 
the French were unaware of these claims, or desirous in 
1789 to tread down other peoples. On the contrary, as 
much as the Russi; *^s to-day, their more ardent leaders 
hoped for world revolution on the French model. It was 
rather because they were too preoccupied with their own 
revolution and concerned to state the claim of the French 
people to inherit the authority of the anckn regime to give 
thought to the fraternity of mankind until the hostility of 
other countries had forced them into a position of national 
consolidation which converted itself with military success 
into Napoleonic imperialism. The effect, however, was that 
the French Revolution, in its world influence, became a basis 
for nationalism and failed to develop the cosmopolitan 
elements of the eighteenth-century enlightenment with its 
conception of the fraternite not merely of fellow-citizens, 
but of all men. In its original impulse, as distinct from its 
later development, there were in it the seeds of universalism, 


Essays in Social Theory 

but they never sprouted : they were killed by the chill 
climate of war. 

Finally, it should be observed that the reaction against 
the privileged corporations of the ancien regime led the 
French into a violent hostility to all forms of association 
within the State, and even to a centralization of power at 
the expense of local government. This hostility was shared 
to some extent by the English Utilitarians, for the same 
reasons, but much less violently : so that democratic 
association w r as able to develop much more easily in nine- 
teenth-century Britain than in France, both through local 
government and through such bodies as Trade Unions, 
Co-operative Societies, and voluntary associations of a wide 
variety of types. I have, however, no space to do more 
than merely note this difference, important as it was in the 
long run. 


Western Civilization and the Rights 
. 0 / the Individual 1 

T here is a phrase — ‘the greatest happiness of the 
greatest number ’ — which is commonly attributed to 
the famous reformer, Jeremy Bentham, though he was 
not in fact the first to use it. Although Bentham was not 
the originator of the idea that the great purpose of good 
politics is to achieve ‘ the greatest happiness of the greatest 
number \ it was through Bentham, and as the slogan of the 
Utilitarian philosophers, that the phrase passed into current 
usage and came to stand for a particular attitude to the 
problems of society. This slogan, with its appeal to ‘ the 
counting of heads ’ as an alternative to ‘ breaking them ’ in 
civil conflict, may seem at first thought far removed from the 
question of individual rights. The two are, however, in 
truth very close together ; for what Bentham and those who 
agreed with him we* proclaiming was that the thing that 
really mattered was that as many people as possible should 
be as happy as it was possible to make them ; and happiness 
is essentially a condition of the individual, varying from 
person to person in the things that go to»its making, and 
incapable of existing except in and for individual sentient 
beings. That was why Immanuel Kant refused to accept 
it as a principle of political value. Tie said it was purely 
‘ subjective \ and dismissed it on that ground. The Utili- 
tarians, on the other hand, valued it precisely because it was 
‘ subjective ’ — that is, because it was a matter for and in 
each individual, and not something to which the individual 
was only a means. 

In proclaiming the pursuit of happiness as a political 

I S I 

Essays in Social Theory 

principle, the Utilitarians were declaring war on all those 
schools of thought which found the repository of final 
values, not in individual men and women, but in some entity 
regarded as superior to them, so that they owed service to 
it, not it to them. In particular, they were hostile to anyone 
who treated the State as a mystical being entitled to bind all 
its citizens to its service, not becaust of anything the State 
could do for them, but because of what they could do for the 
State. As against this, Bentham and his followers insisted 
that States were in fact nothing more, in the last resort, than 
collections of individuals, and were of value, not in them- 
selves, but only in as far as they contributed to the happiness 
and well-being of the citizens. They regarded Hegel's 
exaltation of the State — which has had so great an influence 
on German thought — as mystical nonsense, and considered 
it certain, if it were accepted, to lead to tyranny that 
would ride rough-shod over human rights and legitimate 

If this attitude is fundamentally correct, as 1 am sure it 
is, a great deal follows immediately from it. First, as happi- 
ness is very much an individual matter, it follows that each 
person should be allowed the fullest possible chance of 
seeking it in his own way, by doing what he wants to do and 
not what other people think he ought to want to do. There 
must, of course, be limitations upon this individual freedom 
of choice ; but the limitations ought to be as few as possible. 
The sound principle of action in this matter seems to be that 
a man’s (or of ccfurse a woman’s) liberty should be interfered 
with only when its exercise would destroy more liberty for 
other individuals than it would allow to the individual whose 
liberty is being restrained. That is where the ‘ greatest 
happiness of the greatest number ’ comes in ; and that is 
what makes Bentham’s principle so decisively democratic in 
its effects. 

Secondly, it follows from Bentham’s doctrine that where 
any existing institution or state of affairs is manifestly a 
cavse of more unhappiness than happiness steps ought to be 
taken to set things to rights. Bentham, in his day, saw the 


Western Civilization and Individual Rights 

State doing a great many things that plainly did lead to 
unnecessary suffering — for example, he saw very harsh 
penal laws, entrenchment of overbearing privilege and of 
monopolistic restrictions that kept goods scarce and dear, 
and power in the hands of corrupt municipal corporations 
which treated the public property as a means to private 
enjoyment for themselves and made no attempt to give their 
towns such benefits as proper drains or a supply of pure 
water. Those who followed his precepts set to work not 
only to sweep away all the bad interferences with individual 
liberty, but also to build up good forms of interference that 
would make for the diffusion of individual happiness. 
Each individual’s happiness may be very much a personal 
affair ; but that does not prevent us all from knowing that 
the freedom to catch typhoid from impure water is not a 
freedom that makes for happiness, or one that we should set 
out to preserve. 

Thirdly, the thinkers who made happiness the goal of 
political action gradually came to realize that the existence 
of differences of taste and opinion between man and man 
was not something to be deplored, but was, on the contrary, 
valuable and desirable. Tom Paine, the author of Rights of 
Man , who gave utterance in turn to the democratic doctrines 
set in motion by the merican and French Revolutions, put 
this point of view best when he exclaimed that what was 
wanted in society was not merely toleration, but recognition 
of the positive virtue of difference. Paine held that it was 
through the free discussion of varying opinions that men 
were most likely to get nearer to the truth and to recognize 
that there was not one abstract truth contrasted with many 
forms of falsehood, but a great variety of truths all capable 
of contributing to the vigorous life of a society and to the 
richness of the lives men could lead as membeis of it. Here, 
again, it has of course to be recognized that some limits have 
to be set to the freedom of discussion ; for we cannot afford 
to allow open advocacy of ciime or cruelty, or the open 
preaching, beyond a point, of doctrines which threaten to 
destroy the values of our civilization. But, here again, if 

T 53 

Essays in Social Theory 

we begin by treating individual differences as good, and not 
as deplorable lapses from the one true doctrine, we shall be 
most likely to keep our restrictions on the freedom of dis- 
cussion within the narrowest limits that are compatible with 
social survival. 

I have been speaking so far of the nature of the liberty of 
the individual in close relation to th^ idea of the ‘ greatest 
happiness of the greatest number ’ — tha*> is, of the notion 
in its modern democratic form. In our Western ‘ way of 
life * as it is to-day we think of liberty as a thing which every 
individual ought to enjoy to the fullest practicable extent. 
But this was not how it was always thought of. In the 
eighteenth century and earlier there were many thinkers who 
set a very high value on individual liberty, but did so only 
for a limited number of people whom they regarded as 
capable of profiting by it — not for the ‘ swinish multitude ’, 
by which phrase was meant the largest part of the people. 
As we look back, we can indeed see the notion of individual 
rights broadening out to include more and more of the people, 
until it came at length to be extended to them all. It was 
the great message of the French Revolution to proclaim the 
doctrine of the ‘ rights of man * as applying to all men simply 
because they are men, and not only to some men, because of 
some special superiority or prestige. The French or English 
or German aristocrat had often a great idea of the amount of 
liberty to which he and others whom he recognized as his 
equals were entitled, but none at all of the claims of the 
common people. 1 Even further back, the burghers of the 
corporate towns fought hard for their own rights, but had 
no thought of claiming similar rights either for their servants 
or for the mass of peasants in the countryside. Even when 
lawyers proclaimed the great doctrine of the equality of all 
men before the law, which lies at the very foundation of our 
individual liberties, most of them had no notion of extending 
this equality outside the strictly legal domain, or of refusing 
to recognize, even in law, such inequalities as that which the 
lav; continued so long to maintain between ‘ master * and 
‘ servant * — - so that, even in England, up to 1867, a master 

Western Civilization and Individual Rights 

could give evidence on his own behalf, whereas a servant 
could not. 

Individual liberty used, in effect, to be regarded as a 
special privilege, to be allowed bountifully to a few, but to 
be doled out in niggardly fashion to the great majority of 
men, who were supposed either not to be fit for it, or to 
have no special claim to be permitted its enjoyment. Then, 
gradually, the concept was democratized. But the growth 
of democracy, though it has done an immense amount to 
broaden the conception of individual liberty, has carried 
with it also certain unmistakable dangers. For it is possible 
to regard democracy, not as a means of extending individual 
liberty to everybody, but in a quite different way as author- 
izing the domination of the ‘ mass ’ over the individuals who 
make it up. This can be done, as it was done to some extent 
in the great French Revolution, by exalting the notion of 
la patrie — the fatherland — above that of individual men 
and women. Or it can be done, as Hitler did it, by pro- 
claiming the Fiihrer as the charismatic leader (to use Max 
Weber’s term) entitled to speak for, and to represent, all the 
people, irrespective of their personal attitudes and scales of 
value. Or, again it can be done, as Marxists tend to do it, 
by exalting the class above the individuals who belong to it, 
and treading down } sonal freedom in the name of class- 
freedom from the oppression of a dominant class. 

All these notions are in conflict with what seems to me 
to be the living tradition of our Western civilization — a 
tradition which sets the final value on the iiwiividual sentient 
human being, with his singular and personal capacity for 
experiencing pleasure and pain, happiness and unhappiness, 
well-being and poverty of life. As a Socialist, I believe that 
it is necessary to provide a framework of social regulation 
within which the individual citizens can pursue their several 
notions of what makes for happiness. I believe that this 
framework must guarantee a fair measure of social security 
for all, must protect the weak against the strong, and must 
ensure that the resources at the disposal of society are u$ed 
to the best advantage for the benefit of the whole people. 


Essays in Social Theory 

But emphatically I do not believe that, in order to bring 
these things about, we need or should discard the private 
liberties which it is the greatest achievement of our civiliza- 
tion to have extended, more than ever before, to the general 
run of men and women. 

In calling upon governments to assume larger and more 
positive tasks for furthering the ‘ gi eatest happiness of the 
greatest number the peoples of the West, have no intention 
of allowing governments to become so much their masters 
as to dictate to them how they are to behave or what they 
are to believe. Governments should belong to the peoples, 
not peoples to their governments, and the purpose of demo- 
cracy is to ensure that governments shall use the powers 
given to them for the enlargement of men’s personal free- 
doms, and that individual men and women shall not be 
degraded by their rulers into instruments of any collective 
entity set apart from themselves as an embodiment of 
superior or superhuman values. I for one am not the less 
individualist in my outlook for being a Socialist : indeed I 
regard Socialism, not as an end, but as a means to the 
enlargement of individual capacities and liberties. In this 
I believe myself to be playing my small part in the guardian- 
ship of a great tradition, which has been broadening down 
for centuries from aristocracy to democracy. This demo- 
cracy, however incomplete, is a foundation on which the 
West can hope to build ; and I am sure it would be folly to 
fling it away or to allow it to be destroyed. For, let me 
repeat, the great'faith of our Western civilization is that men 
and women matter, that their happiness and well-being 
matter, and that in the final resort nothing else matters — 
not States, or classes, or any abstractions or collective 
entities, but simply and solely the individual sentient beings 
of whom such entities are made up. 


Auguste Comte 1 

A uguste Comte was born in 1798 and died in 1857. 

L\ It is the more important to get him fixed in time in 
± relation to other social thinkers because Comtism or 
Positivism, at different periods of his influence, meant to 
most people radically different, though not of course un- 
related, things. The first of its two meanings, and by far the 
more important, is expressed in the six volumes of his first 
major work, the Coars de philosophic positive , which became 
known in England chiefly in Harriet Martineau’s four- 
volume condensed translation. The second meaning, on 
which were based the Positivist sects in England and else- 
where, with the Positivist Church of Humanity as their 
rallying point, was embodied in the four volumes of the 
Systeme de politinue positive , which also contained a shorter 
restatement of the Positivist Philosophy as a whole. It was 
duly translated into : nglish ; and its first volume, under the 
title A General View of Positivism , had a wide public. There 
are, of course, lesser writings, including a famous Testament 
d y Auguste Comte , intended for his disciples ; but the ten 
volumes of the Cours and the Systeme together contain all 
the essentials of Comtism in both its phases. 

By this time most readers have probably resolved, not 
merely that they have no intention of reading ten (I regret to 
say, massive) volumes, but that they mean to rest content 
with taking so voluminous a writer at second hand, and will 
not read any of him. That, I think, will be a pity, if they 
persist in such a resolve ; and, as a merciful guide, I hasten 
to add that in one very short book, which has been trans- 
lated into English as A Discourse on the Positive Spirit , tfiey 

r 57 

Essays in Social Theory 

will find Comte setting out very succinctly the gist of his 
Positive Philosophy, without either the mass of detailed 
argumentation contained in the Cours or the high proportion 
of absolute rubbish that is mingled with the good sense in the 
later Systeme. 

Let me come back to the essential dates. Comte's first 
work of substance, Plan des travaux scientifiques necessaires 
pour reorganiser la society appeared in , 1824, under the 
auspices of Saint-Simon, with and under whom Comte had 
then already been working for some years. It contains in 
embryo most of the essential doctrines of Positivism in its 
earlier phase, and is the direct precursor of the Cours de 
philosophic positive , which was published by stages between 
1830 and 1842. Thus, by 1842, Positivism was complete in 
its earlier form ; and the Discourse which I mentioned a 
moment ago, published in 1844, can be regarded as a sum- 
ming up of this earlier phase. Readers may remember the 
references made by John Stuart Mill in his Autobiography 
to the influence Comte had over him in his youth. These 
references are to the Plan des travaux scientifiques and to 
the earlier volumes of the Cours de philosophic positive. 
They have no relation to Comte’s later writings, which are 
indeed mentioned in their place, but with a strong dis- 
approval in marked contrast with Mill’s earlier attitude. 
The strictures refer to the Systeme de politique positive, which 
was published between 1851 and 1854. Mill in his book, 
Auguste Comte and Positivism (1865), attempted a more 
general appraisal- of Comte’s work as a whole ; and there 
the contrast between the earlier and later phases again 
stands out sharply. There were, in effect, two Auguste 
Comtes — call them ‘ Augustus ’ and 4 Augustulus ’ — with 
whom we have to reckon in any account of Comtism in its 
relation to nineteenth-century thought and action. The 
first of these two was, I am sure, a very important person : 
the second there would be no need to mention at all had he 
not got himself tied on to the first, so that what one reads 
about Comte and Positivism cannot in many cases be under- 
stood without knowing them both. For example, most of 

Auguste Comte 

Karl Marx’s derogatory references to Comte have mainly to 
do with Comte II — though I am not suggesting that Marx 
had any great use for Comte I either. 

Comte, it is well to remember, invented the word Socio- 
logies and was indeed the father of Sociology as a subject 
of study. He believed that human problems — which he 
preferred to call the problems of Humanity with a big 
H — could be studied in the same spirit as that which had 
achieved the immense progress made during the preceding 
centuries in one after another of the recognized ‘ natural 
sciences ’. He held that this progress could have been made 
only by taking up the ‘ natural sciences ’ in a particular 
order of succession — an order of which he attempted to 
formulate the law. The time, he said, had now been reached 
at which mankind was ready to take up the last and most 
difficult ‘ natural ’ study — that of itself. The ‘ Science of 
Humanity ’, to which he gave the name 4 Sociology ’, he 
regarded as the last and highest of the ‘ natural sciences * : 
with its mastery, the circle of scientific knowledge would be 
complete in all its parts, and would need only the synthesis 
of the Positivist Philosophy as a whole. Comte II some- 
what modified this view by inserting, on top of Sociology, 
a further study of Morals ; but I have no time to enter into 
the complications of ids later view, which does not affect his 
general outlook. 

Each science, according to Comte, has its own appropriate 
methods, and accordingly Sociology, the Social Science, 
needs to have its methods w r orked out, especially in relation 
to the use of History as its essential material. All the separate 
methods are, however, examples of a more general method, 
which Comte calls the ‘ positive * and contrasts with other 
methods which men have employed in previous ages for 
solving their problems, but now no longer need and must 
discard if humanity is to progress to its ‘ natural ’ goal. 

The whole structure of Comte’s philosophy, in its earlier 
phase, rests on the two notions to which I have just referred 
— the notion of method and the notion of a natural ordej in 
the advancement of human knowledge. The first of these 

Essays in Social Theory 

notions is often called that of the ‘ three states ’ — des trois 
etats . These ‘ states * are, in effect, states of mind, attitudes 
of mankind towards the order of reality. Comte calls them 
respectively the ‘ theological ’, the 4 metaphysical ’, and the 
‘ positive and the earliest of them, the ‘ theological ’, he 
subdivides into three lesser stages — ‘ fetichism \ ‘ poly- 
theism and 4 monotheism ’ — which last he distinguishes 
from ‘ deism ’ of the eighteenth - century type, regarding 
‘ deism ’ as rather a hangover into the ‘ metaphysical * 

This triad, as distinct from its detailed working out, was 
not original to Comte. It came to f him from Saint-Simon, 
together with much else ; and Saint-Simon had got the 
germ of it from Turgot. What Comte did was to found upon 
it an entire system and a philosophy of history, regarded as 
essentially a history of the progress of the human spirit — 
a conception which owes much to Condorcet’s famous 
Esquisse. Man, in his earlier stages of development out of 
the unexplored darkness of his beginnings, explains the 
world by himself, making out his environment as consisting 
of active agents like to himself. In the first stage of all, he 
draws no distinction between organic and inorganic nature, 
making, not gods, but fetiches out of material objects of 
either sort. In passing, I may say that this notion of 
‘ fetichism \ and the name, go back to 1760, and were the 
work of De Brosses, who published in that year his pioneer 
studies of African tribal religions {Du cultc des dieux 
fetiches). From fetichism ’ — the word 4 fetich * is Portu- 
guese and means ‘ factitious ' or ‘ manufactured ’ — Comte 
saw mankind emerging into a phase of ‘ polytheism ’, in 
which they first distinguished spirit from matter, and made 
for themselves many gods who were not simply things, but 
were distinct from the things they might inhabit as bodies, 
or were even, later, disembodied altogether, in any material 
sense. This distinction between spirit and matter made it 
possible, Comte held, for men to observe matter without 
assuming that it was all moved, as they were themselves, by 
personal forces inherent in it. Thus men would begin to 


Auguste Comte 

descry laws, as distinct from lawless activity, in inanimate 
matter — a great advance in understanding and an in- 
dispensable foundation for the growth of the positive spirit. 
As long, however, as men made for themselves many gods 
and each god was in the main a law unto himself there could 
develop no idea of a universal order, resting on a universal 
law. For this the advance to ‘ monotheism ’ was needed — 
the conception of jone God, wielding one law as master of 
nature. ‘ Monotheism ’ was, for Comte, the latest and 
highest of the three stages of the first etat of mankind — the 

Man could not, however, rest at this stage, great as 
Comte held its achievements to have been. For men’s 
attempts to interpret the order of nature in its physical forms 
had given rise to a new spirit — that of ‘ metaphysics ’ — 
through which men sought, by the use of the intellect alone 
(whereas religious belief rested essentially on ‘ sentiment ’) 
to interpret reality by the use of deductive method, forming 
great generalizations about reality and endeavouring to 
check their validity rather by their coherence one with 
another than by study of the facts. The 4 metaphysicians ’, 
Comte held, were trying to know reality, whereas all that 
could be known was that which was experienced — and that 
only by inductive studi s using ‘ positive ’ methods. Accord- 
ingly, the advance of metaphysics could not serve the true 
development of the human spirit, but could only he of use 
4 critically ’, as a solvent of theological notions. In Comte’s 
view, the second great etat of mankind, that of the 4 meta- 
physical ’ approach, though an advance on the theological, 
could have no corresponding constructive achievements to 
its credit. It was an advance because, by critically transcend- 
ing theology, of which it retained only a thin gruel of 
4 deism ’, it cleared the ground for the full emergence of the 
4 positive ’ spirit. 

Comte, it should be observed, came of Catholic royalist 
parents and was by no means one of those who regarded the 
French Revolution with uncritical enthusiasm as a landmark 
in the positive achievement of mankind. At best, he looked 


Essays in Social Theory 

on the Revolution as completing the critical destructive task 
of ‘ metaphysics \ and thus helping to prepare the way for 
the positive approach. This attitude, which links him to 
Bonald and de Maistre, parts him sharply from the Saint- 
Simonians, from whom he broke away, I think, largely on 
this underlying issue. He did indeed share with Saint- 
Simon in his latest days, when the twc were working to- 
gether, a deep admiration for the Roman Catholic Church, 
on the score not of its doctrines, which he regarded as 
altogether outmoded and inconsistent with the ‘ positive ’ 
spirit, but of its organization and its ‘ sacerdotal ’ function. 
For Comte, as for certain of the Saint-Simonians (e.g. 
Enfantin), this function was of the highest importance to 
mankind. Comte, in counting up the advances made in the 
development from ‘ fetichism ’ to ‘ theism counted high 
among them the emergence of a ‘ priesthood ’, which he 
regarded as the expression of the higher, spiritual side of 
man’s nature, the great nurturer and guardian of human 
feeling and intellect from the moment when human societies 
were able to afford to set aside a share in the product of 
social labour for the maintenance of a class of non-producers. 
From this point, he held, the foundations of social progress 
had been firmly laid. The first societies extending beyond 
family groups were, he thought, everywhere ‘ theocracies ’ ; 
and, as we shall see, in his later writings he gave to a new 
priesthood of the ‘ Religion of Humanity ’ a key role in the 
new system of ‘ Positive Politics ’ which he expounded in 
the magnum opus 9 of his second period. 

In past history the priesthood, according to Comte, had 
reached its highest point of service in the Middle Ages. lie 
looked back with particular approval at the dualism which 
had then existed between the spiritual and the temporal 
power, though he held it to have rested on no assured or 
properly defined demarcation of functions. The Middle 
Ages, he thought, had at least achieved a recognition, in 
social organization, of the dualism between man as a practical 
and man as an affective and intellectual being, and had thus 
provided for the balanced development of the human spirit. 


Auguste Comte 

Nevertheless, the theocratic power, of which the military- 
legalistic power of the temporal State was only the com- 
plementary aspect, had to be dissolved by the growth of the 
‘ metaphysical ’ spirit of free inquiry, even though this spirit, 
resting all upon the intellect and nothing upon sentiment, 
could achieve no constructive advance. The attack of the 
‘ metaphysicians * involved the dissolution of the priestly 
authority, and th£ dominance for the time of the secular 
State. But this was only an episode ; and in the new 
‘ positive ’ etat of human development, the priestly function, 
shorn of its theological integument, would reassert its im- 
portance. This germ the doctrine of Comte II was 
already present in the writings of Comte I, though it had 
not yet taken up a central position in his system. 

Out of the social chaos engendered by the critical approach 
of the metaphysicians, Comte held, the ‘ positive spirit ’ had 
been gradually emerging for several centuries. There were, 
however, certain phases of thought which he could not easily 
fit in to his general account of the 4 metaphysicians ’ as 
merely critical intellectuals. Rousseau, for one ; and the 
entire stream of Protestant individualism for another. Of 
Rousseau, whose greatness he both recognized and disliked, 
Comte held that he had invoked ‘ feeling ’, sentiment , as the 
counter-agent to the tellectual trend towards sheer anarchy 
of the human spirit, but had succeeded only in converting 
sentiment itself into a force making at once for spiritual 
anarchy and for the entire dominance of the temporal over 
the spiritual power — witness the complete Erastianism of 
the Contrat social and of the Confession of Faith of the 
Savoyard Vicar in Emile. To Protestantism he was much 
less respectful. Always, Comte’s attitude was supremely 
anti-individualist : he thought of Society, or of Humanity, 
as the living realities, and of the individual, if not as an 
abstraction, at any rate as truly living only in and through 
Society. So much was this the case that he regarded bodily 
death as unimportant and, without belief in personal im- 
mortality, conceived of men as living on in the common, life 
of Humanity, and as sharing in the progress of Humanity 


Essays in Social Theory 

towards its Positivist goal. It was one of the sources of his 
belief in progress — or so he thought — that, the older 
mankind grows, the more the living dead outnumber the 
living living, and cast their influence on each generation. As 
much as Burke, he used this argument to answer the believers 
in democracy as a counting of living heads. 

The dissolution of theology in metaphysics, as we saw, 
was for Comte an essentially destructive*, but a necessary, 
historical process. Its occurrence overlapped in time with 
the development of the new spirit of scientific inquiry, the 
expression of the ‘ positive ’ spirit. This brings us to the 
second of Comte’s laws of development — that the advance 
of the new spirit had, in accordance with the constitution of 
man’s nature, to take place in a certain order, and could not 
follow any other. The positive sciences, he held, must 
follow in their growth a law of ‘ decreasing generality and of 
increasing complexity ’, tackling first those aspects of nature 
which were most universal in their manifestation and dis- 
played the greatest regularity, and later, in succession, the 
more particular and liable to variation, which were also the 
more complex. Thus, he held, scientific progress must 
begin with mathematics and proceed thence to astronomy, 
thence to physics, thence to chemistry, thence to biology, 
and thence, last of all, to sociology — to the study of man in 
society and not merely as a biological organism. Each of 
these sciences could, of course, ramify into specializations ; 
and Comte had much to say of the necessary order of such 
specialized secondary development as well as of the main line 
of progress. But into these further refinements there is no 
time to follow him in this brief account. 

The study of social man — Sociology — comes last, 
because it is the least general and the most complex branch 
of science, human being much greater than animal variation 
in behaviour, as animal behaviour is more variable than that 
of inanimate ‘ nature ’. Observe that it is of social rather 
than of individual variation that Comte is mainly thinking : 
he lays stress on difference of social patterns between societies 
or between stages of development much more than on varia- 


Auguste Comte 

tions between individuals — except that he lays great stress 
on the differences between men and women, at any rate in 
his later work. For Comte, societies and not individuals are 
the main objects of positive study at the highest stage of the 
development of human faculty. At the pre-society level he 
sees, not individuals, but families as the essential units : he 
anticipates Le Play in the immense stress which he lays on 
the family as th^ foundation on which the entire social 
structure finally rests. But the family is not society ; and 
it is societies resting on family units that he regards as the 
main subject-matter of the coming ‘ Social Science \ In 
this Durkheim, whose Sociology owed much to Positivism, 
followed him ; but he goes far beyond Durkheim in treating 
the individual as a social product, and not society as a product 
of individual men, because, for Comte, even societies are 
only instances of Humanity in history — materials for the 
inductive study of Humanity as a whole. 

It will be seen that Comte’s Positive Philosophy is at 
every point also a Theory of History. Comtism is one of 
those universal theories of human progress as a straight-line 
growth to a predestined goal in which the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries delighted. But whereas, for Kant, the 
progress was essentially that of mankind in terms of Reason 
conceived as a proces. intellectual achievement ; whereas, 
for Hegel, it was a still more metaphysically conceived pro- 
gress of the Spirit of Rationality upon earth ; whereas, for 
Marx, it was a progress of increasing ‘ socialization ’ resting 
on the evolution of the material basis of mag’s existence ; for 
Comte, as against all these, it was a progress of the scientific 
spirit limiting itself to what could be made amenable to 
inductive investigation and verification. This does not mean 
that Comte was unaware either of the ‘ March of Reason ’ 
or of the importance of economic factors in human history. 
We have seen how he treated the former, under the name of 
‘ metaphysics ’, as a necessary critical-destructive phase, but 
refused to assign to it any constructive role. His awareness 
of the importance of economic factors, as a disciple of Saint- 
Simon, came to him right at the start ; for it had been the 


Essays in Social Theory 

principal theme of Saint - Simon’s work, from his early 
Introduction aux travaux scientifiques du XI X e siecle (1807) 
to the end of his life, that man’s developing mastery over 
nature was rendering the previous forms of human govern- 
ment obsolete, and was calling for a new order in which les 
industriels , les producteurs , would take the place of kings and 
aristocrats and warriors as the contrc fling agents of society. 
Comte’s earliest published writings were devoted to develop- 
ing this Saint-Simonian thesis ; and he continued to the end 
to insist that the positive etat of mankind was also the etat 
of industrial predominance, and that scientific and industrial 
growth went of necessity hand in hand. Comte, however, 
regarded the growth of man’s productive power, not as the 
consequence of a so-called ‘ material ’ force, the evolving 
4 powers of production *, but as a product of the advance of 
the human spirit towards a positive attitude to natural forces. 
This positive attitude, giving through experiment a practical 
mastery over nature — this, and not an independent evolu- 
tion of the 4 powers of production ’ themselves — was, in 
Comte’s system, the clue to the understanding of human 

I realize the inadequacy of this highly condensed account 
of the essential doctrine embodied in Comte’s Cours de 
philosophic positive-- that is, of the system of Comte I, 
which so influenced John Stuart Mill, and gave a tremendous 
stimulus to so many lines of nineteenth-century thought, 
above all in the fields of Anthropology and Sociology, and in 
the methodological field of Inductive Logic. In particular 
I am aware of having left out altogether so far one aspect of 
Comte’s system on which the greatest stress is usually laid — 
I mean, his distinction between Social Statics and Social 
Dynamics — terms borrowed by Herbert Spencer, but used 
by him with an essentially different meaning. I have not 
dwelt on this side of Comte, because, large though it looms 
in his writings, I do not believe it to be either clear in itself, 
or nearly so important as the aspects of Comtism on which 
I h^ve chosen to dwell. Very briefly, 4 Statics ’ is for Comte 
the study of structures from the standpoint of seeking to 


Auguste Comte 

discover their principle of ‘ order ’, whereas ‘ Dynamics * is 
the study of the principles of change and growth. There is, 
however, rather more to it than this. Comte believed that 
everything, up to and including human society, has in it a 
structural principle which is its nature and persists unaltered 
through all its changes and variations. In his ‘ Statics ’, 
therefore, he is setting out not merely to study things as 
they are at a particular moment of observation, but, through 
induction (or, by exception, where necessary, through 
deductive hypothesis followed up by inductive verification), 
their essential and unchanging nature ; whereas in his 
4 Dynamics ’ he is trying to find out bv way of what laws 
these unchanging natures undergo the secondary changes 
which constitute, he assumes, progress. Accordingly, Comtist 
induction is not, as it sometimes appears to be, simple 
generalization from observed instances, leading to mere 
statistically probable conclusions. He conceives of it as 
leading to certain — that is, to assured — conclusions about 
the nature of things, and of mankind, even though he denies 
that it is possible to penetrate beyond what is given in 
experience to any underlying metaphysical reality, or Ding 
an sick. It goes "'ith this attitude that Comte insists on the 
need for framing, by imagination, the right questions to in- 
vestigate, and denies ti ^ utility of mere observation unarmed 
with the right questions. That is to say, in effect he recognizes 
the indispensability of imaginative hypothesis as an instru- 
ment of the ‘ positive ’ method. 

I must now turn very briefly indeed to. Comte II, who 
led his followers up the garden path of the 4 Religion of 
Humanity ’, echoing in his later years some of the thoughts 
of his master, Saint-Simon’s, old age - for was not Saint- 
Simon’s last book a plan for Le nouveau christianisme ? In 
the Systeme de politique positive Comte addresses himself 
to giving constructive plans for the organization of the new 
Positive Society of Humanity which is presently to cover all 
the earth. Here his sacerdotal caste comes right into the 
centre of the picture ; for the great guardian of the positive 
spirit is to be an omnipresent Church of Humanity — 


Essays in Social Theory 

Church of the living dead, who are to be celebrated by the 
living living, as much as of the current generation of men. 
This non-theological Church is, indeed, to have no temporal 
power : it is not to govern or to control the government. 
But it is to be an absolute, independent spiritual power, 
continually advising the temporal power how to act, and in 
sole control of all education, which ; s treated as the means 
of forming the mind of mankind in accordance with the 
Positivist creed. This is Comte's way of return to the dualism 
of the Middle Ages, but a return, he believes, on a sounder 
basis of functional allocation. This dual structure he rests 
on his psychology, which I cannot here discuss fully, though 
it forms an important element in the Positive Philosophy 
in its earlier as well as in its later phase. In Comte’s view, the 
highest part of man’s nature is neither the practical nor the 
intellectual, but the affective. The intellect alone, he holds, 
has but little power to influence men ; it can be strong only 
when it is the ally of sentiment and the two are blended 
together under the inspiration of religion (in a strictly non- 
theological sense). The practical part of man’s nature, which 
finds expression in government, including the government of 
business as well as political government, is, according to 
Comte, the lowest part : it requires the guidance of the 
spirit, as expressed in the ‘ sacerdotal order ’ of savants of 
the universal Church of Humanity. The governors should 
listen to the voice of the Church ; but it is wrong as well as 
futile for the Church to be armed with any coercive power 
except that of ^influence (including the entire control of 
education). It is futile, because men cannot be commanded 
to progress, but only influenced to follow the progressive 
laws of their own nature : it is wrong, because in assuming 
temporal power the spiritual hierarchy would rob itself of 
its essential character, as attached to the sentiment of 
Humanity rather than to its practical bent of will. 

With this goes, in Comte II, a great deal about the function 
of woman as angel-mediator between the grosser and more 
practical male and the Supreme Being who, as Humanity 
rather than as God, presides over the Universe and the 

1 68 

Auguste Comte 

Universal Comtist Church. But into these and many other 
aspects of the later Comtism I have no time to enter. „ The 
Politique positive drove away many of Comte’s earlier 
disciples and estranged many, including Mill, from his 
influence ; but it attracted others and made the Positivist 
Sect, with its Calendar of Great Men and its worship of a 
deified Humanity, for a time influential, especially in the 
English-speaking countries. In France, on the other hand, 
Comtism developed rather into an inspiration towards those 
observational studies in the fields of Cultural Anthropology 
and of Sociology which Comte himself had never seen the 
need to pursue because his whole approach led him to seek 
his data in history rather than in the study of contemporary 
society, and to stress the uniformity, rather than the infinite 
variety, of human development. Comte’s great weakness 
was that, in studying Humanity, he tended to forget not only 
individual men and women, but even particular societies 
and the variations of the social pattern. This led him, in the 
end, to what Mill described as ‘ the completest system of 
spiritual and temporal despotism which ever yet emanated 
from a human brain, unless possibly that of Ignatius Loyola ’, 
and as ‘ a monur. ental warning to thinkers on society, and 
politics, of what happens when once men lose sight in their 
speculations of the values of Liberty and of Individuality ’ 
( Autobiography ). In the succession of French thought, how- 
ever, Comte leads, on the strength of his earlier work, 
directly to Durkheim and to the French anthropological 
and sociological schools. In England, on 'the other hand, 
Positivism, as taken over from Comte II, came speedily to a 
dead end. 



The Communist Manifesto of 1848 1 

F or a whole century, in the course of which countless 
other manifestoes have been issued by bodies immensely 
more influential in their own day than the Communist 
League of 1848, the Communist Manifesto of that ‘ year of 
revolutions ’ has remained powerfully alive : nor was its 
doctrine ever more vigorously present than it is to-day. 
Other manifestoes have survived, to be read by scholars and 
students for the light they throw on bygone historical move- 
ments and events : this one alone lives on as a guide to action, 
not merely for handfuls of devotees here and there, or even, 
like the great American and French Declarations of the 
eighteenth century, as statements of principles which underlie 
the entire development of nineteenth- and twentieth-century 
civilization, but as the inspiring gospel of a contemporary 
social movement which is only now making its full impact 
on the world. Deeply as Americans may still revere the 
Declaration of Independence or Frenchmen — and many 
who are not Frenchmen — the Declaration of the Rights of 
Man, no one any longer treats either of these great historic 
documents as a reference manual for current political 
practice : whereas the Communist Manifesto is to-day, for 
the leaders of many States as well as for a great following 
spread over most of the world, not simply a sacred text to 
be recited in ceremonial observance, but the expression of a 
social theory which furnishes the essential answers — though 
not of course all the answers — to the problems of revolu- 
tionary strategy and Socialist construction. 

This extraordinary vitality of the Manifesto would be 
inexplicable were there not in it, with whatever admixture 


The Communist Manifesto of 1848 

of errors and of merely transitory truths, some quality of 
imaginative insight that not merely interpreted, with apparent 
appositeness, the conditions of the period at which it was 
written, but also went below the surface of these conditions 
to an understanding of great historical forces that are still 
shaping the course of social evolution to-day. In this study, 
though I shall have much to say in criticism of the social 
theory which the Manifesto expresses, my primary purpose 
will be to stress those elements in it which account for its 
persistent vitality and the spread of its influence all over the 

Yet the first thing that falls to be noticed about the 
Communist Manifesto is that its immediate influence was 
almost nothing. Its publication, at the end of February 
1848, in no wise affected the course of the European Revolu- 
tions of that and the following years. It was not even 
translated into most of the European languages until these 
Revolutions were over, or their fate settled. In its original 
German version it was read at the time by very few Germans : 
the French version, issued in June 1848, had no influence 
on the main body of French Socialist and working-class 
opinion. The fir° 4 English version appeared only in 1850, 
in George Julian Harney’s Red Republican , which was read 
by few. The first Rushan translation, published in Switzer- 
land, dates from about i860. Nothing much was heard 
about the Manifesto , save in small circles, mainly of emigre 
Germans and their friends, between the defeat of the 
European Revolutions and the foundation of the Inter- 
national Working Men’s Association — the First Inter- 
national — in 1864. From then, indeed, its influence has 
been continuous ; for the defeat of th~ Paris Commune in 
1871 and the eclipse of the First International did not 
involve the disappearance of Marxism as a widespread 
political influence. The developing Socialist Parties of the 
1870s and 1880s mostly professed to rest their doctrines 
upon Marxist foundations and looked back to the Communist 
Manifesto as the first coherent statement of their Soci^ist 
outlook. But all this came about only long after the Mani - 

Essays in Social Theory 

festo's original appearance. In relation to the actual events 
of 1848 it has simply no significance at all. For the historian 
of that period it is a portent rather than a document of 
current history. 

Doubtless the diligent historian of Socialism can trace its 
effects from the very moment of its publication. He can 
follow out its impact on the minds of individual thinkers 
and leaders in various countries — for example, in England, 
on Ernest Jones. But however deeply Jones, or any other 
individual, was influenced by this early formulation of 
Marxian Socialism, and however true it may be that always, 
after 1848, there were little groups of Marxists who took 
their inspiration from this source, the fact remains that the 
Manifesto had no substantial influence on the development 
of events, or on the organization and attitude of the working- 
class and Socialist movement, until it had been in circulation, 
or at any rate in existence, for the best part of twenty years. 

Nevertheless, the Communist Manifesto is, in many 
respects, very much a product of its day. It reflects, not 
merely in many of its sentences but in much of its under- 
lying conception, Marx’s interpretation of the actual con- 
ditions of the 1840s — that is, of the decade in which he had 
come to full manhood and had first arrived at the social 
philosophy that everywhere passes under his name. This is 
the case most of all with the formulation in the Manifesto 
of the key doctrine of * class-struggle ’, which occupies the 
central position in it — and indeed in all Marx’s thought. 
In considering ‘ihis formulation we have of course to bear 
in mind that Marx was writing, not a scientific treatise, but 
a manifesto intended to inspire men to action, and was writing 
primarily, not for an inner group of convinced revolutionary 
Socialists who needed only a firmer theoretical basis for their 
will to action, but for a wide public including not only 
radicals and workers of every description but also those 
whom he looked on as enemies. He wished to sharpen the 
sense of class conflict, not only by inspiring the proletariat 
with a sense of its historic mission, but also by frightening 
away the idealists and demagogues who were competing with 


The Communist Manifesto of 1848 

the Communists for the leadership of the working class, 
and by proclaiming to the governing classes as starkly as he 
knew how the appearance on the political stage of a new 
revolutionary force that would in due course compass their 
entire destruction. In such a document it would be foolish 
to look for the niceties of qualifying clauses and explanatory 
footnotes : Marx was blowing a trumpet-call, not making 
soft chamber musjp for (the ears of) a few dilettanti to savour 
at their leisure. Marx wrote what he wrote, correctly be- 
lieving revolution to be immediately impending in Europe, 
and at least hoping that this revolution could be given to a 
significant extent a proletarian instead of a merely bourgeois 

Niceties, then, we must not look for : nor is it profitable 
to cavil at the phrasing of the Manifesto over secondary 
matters, or to pay much heed to the large space lavished in 
it on long outmoded Socialist theories and on parties that 
were soon to be swept into oblivion by the swift march of 
events. We are, however, entitled to take full account of 
whatever appears to be vital to the gist of Marx’s argument 
and to form an essential part of the fundamental theory he 
was setting out te proclaim. As the class-struggle was given 
the key position in his statement, we are entitled to ask 
precisely how Marx conceived it, both on the broad stage of 
all human history and in relation to its contemporary phase 
and tendency. 

1 The history of all hitherto existing society \ proclaims 
the Manifesto , * is the history of class struggles ’ — to which 
statement Engels later appended a footnote exempting pre- 
historic societies. Then follows, so succinctly as to sweep 
all the pre-capitalist epochs together into a single sentence 
of embracing generalization, an application of this key idea 
to the ancient world, to the feudalism and the gild system of 
the Middle Ages, and, by implication, to any type of society 
neither primitively communal nor in its essence capitalistic. 
The reader is next told that ‘ in the earlier epochs of history 
we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of 
society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social 


Essays in Social Theory 

rank ’, but that the bourgeois epoch, the epoch of capitalism, 
1 possesses this distinctive feature : it has simplified the 
class antagonisms \ 4 Society, as a whole,’ we are told, 4 is 

more and more splitting into two great hostile camps, into 
two great classes directly facing each other — bourgeoisie and 

This historical tendency towards the simplification of 
class-relations and towards the sharp confrontation of two 

— and only two — contending classes lies at the very root 
of the doctrine proclaimed in the Manifesto. Marx believed, 
on the basis of his observation of contemporary society, that 
the necessary tendency of capitalism was towards this 
simplification. He believed that the great property owners 
who were in command of the new techniques of production 
and of business dealing were rapidly ousting the small 
capitalists whose methods were being rendered obsolete, 
and that the fate which was awaiting — by no means distantly 

— the classes lying between the great bourgeoisie and the 
proletariat was that of being flung down into the proletariat. 
The petite bourgeoisie — which he thought of as a class 
essentially dependent on small-scale, unmechanized methods 
of production — was, in his view, a class doomed to rapid ex- 
tinction in face of the advance of large-scale production and 
the amassing of financial resources into larger aggregations. 
Moreover, he believed no less firmly that the proletariat, 
far from improving its lot with the advance of produc- 
tivity, was doomed to 4 increasing misery ’ as the tradi- 
tional skills of the craftsmen gave way more and more to the 
machines, which could be operated by unskilled labour, and 
as the contradictions of capitalism were manifested in crises 
of increasing severity on account of the tendency to multiply 
products beyond the advance in consuming power and to 
replace the labour of men by machines to which human 
labour, and therefore the wages accruing to it, would bear 
an ever-decreasing ratio. Thus capital would accumulate, 
and men decay ; and the petits bourgeois who were flung 
down into the proletarian ranks would be assimilated, not 
to the upper strata of the skilled workers, but to the growing 


The Communist Manifesto of 1848 

horde of unskilled factory workers and labourers competing 
more and more intensely for a chance to serve the machine 
and its fewer and fewer wealthy masters. 

The entire presentation of the contemporary phase of the 
class-struggle in the Communist Manifesto rests on these 
assumptions concerning the historical tendency of capitalist 
production ; and there was a great deal in the situation at 
which Marx was actually looking that made them highly 
plausible. The ndw power-driven machines that had come 
in with the Industrial Revolution were ruining and throwing 
down into the proletariat many craftsmen and small masters 
whose skills and methods they superseded : banks and other 
credit agencies were being consolidated into larger units ; 
and to a great extent the new machines were being operated 
by relatively unskilled workers, including a high proportion 
of women and children. Except in a very few cases, the 
new skills based upon power-driven machinery had not yet 
become clearly defined, or easily visible above the general 
ruck of mere machine operators. The cotton spinners were 
the chief exception ; but their case still appeared to be a 
special one, and they were few in comparison with the numbers 
employed in operations that were still regarded as calling 
for but little skill. The joint stock company w r ith a wide 
body of shareholders had indeed appeared, especially in 
connection with the development of the railways ; but it 
had not yet advanced far in the great majority of industries 
— even of those which had been foremost in the new tech- 
niques — and, in the case of the railways, 0 its advance had 
been marked by an extraordinary instability which again 
and again wiped out fortunes almost as fast as they were 
made. The typical business in cotton or in mining or even 
in metal manufacture — still more in metal-working — was 
still the concern of one man or of a small group of partners, 
and was not financed with the aid of a large body of share- 
holders most of whom had only a small stake in its fortunes. 
Moreover, there had been no clear emergence of a new class 
of professionals and salary-earners holding an intermediate 
position between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The 


Essays in Social Theory 

Manifesto does mention the ‘ perfect hierarchy of officers 
and sergeants * who are a characteristic feature of the new 
‘ industrial army \ But it mentions them without any 
appreciation of their significance as an emergent class 
destined to take the place of the declining petite bourgeoisie of 
small masters, shopkeepers, and artisans. In these respects 
Marx showed no prescience of the coming structure of 
capitalist society : he foresaw the social role neither of the 
small shareholder nor of the new salaried and professional 
groups. But it can be fairly noted that neither of these 
phenomena had, in the 1840s, emerged so far into promin- 
ence in the economic structure as to be in a position to play 
any significant part in the impending revolutionary struggles 
of the next few years. 

Marx, in effect, projected into the future tendencies 
which had been really characteristic of the capitalism of the 
first half of the nineteenth century in those countries — 
above all, England — where it had made the most rapid 
advance. His theory of the ‘ increasing misery * of the 
proletariat, of the destruction of traditional skills, of the ruin 
of the petite bourgeoisie in vain competition with the new 
techniques, and of the increasing concentration of capital in 
the hands of great entrepreneurs , did appear to be justified by 
what had actually been happening, and was happening more 
and more; and it could not have been easy, in 1848, to 
anticipate to how great an extent these apparently strong 
tendencies were destined to be reversed, even within a few 
years. Yet in f^ct, at any rate in Great Britain, they were 
markedly reversed in the 1850s — with the general grant of 
limited liability to those who chose to adopt the joint stock 
structure, with the rapid development of new forms of skill 
based upon the machine, with the growth of the demand 
for technical competence in mining and metallurgy — and, 
in a different aspect, with the rapid opening up of new sources 
of cheap food in the untilled spaces of the world. 

None of this did Marx foresee in 1848. Nor, having 
formulated his essential doctrine before it could be seen in 
practice, could he ever bring himself later to modify his 


The Communist Manifesto of 1848 

theory in order to take full account of the changing condi- 
tions. Why, then, it can fairly be asked, did the Communist 
Manifesto , if its diagnosis was so soon invalidated in the 
country in which capitalism was most advanced, grow in 
influence instead of losing its appeal as capitalism entered 
on a new and radically different phase ? 

The answer is that Marxism, though it came in the 1850s 
to be much less applicable to British conditions, remained 
highly applicable to most countries that followed the course 
of capitalistic development which Great Britain had already 
experienced before 1848. It could not be applied, without 
large modifications, to the United States or to the British 
Dominions overseas, because in these countries there was no 
great pre-capitalist labour force to be drawn on so as to 
swell, and at the same time to keep down the claims of, the 
industrial proletariat. It did, however, fit itself reasonably 
well to the growing pains of capitalism elsewhere, not only 
on the European continent, but also wherever new methods 
of production were developed with the aid of great masses of 
low-paid native labour, either on plantations or in mines and 
power-using factories. Indeed, it could be plausibly argued 
that it had ceased to hold good for Great Britain largely 
because the British economy was parasitical on capitalist 
colonial exploitation, which provided subsidies to raise 
British standards of living and to check the supersession of 
the British intermediate classes. Great Britain, said the 
Marxists, had been able to turn its upper proletariat into 
bourgeois , and so to offset the levelling tendyicy of capitalism 
that Marx had prophetically defined. 

Even so, one part of the Marxian theory — that of in- 
creasing misery and the progressive pioletarianization of the 
middle groups — grew harder to defend in Western Europe 
as other advanced capitalist countries began to follow Great 
Britain into a phase in which undoubtedly working-class 
standards of living were improving, and a new petite bour- 
geoisie grew a great deal faster than the old petite bourgeoisie 
of small masters and artisans declined. That change under- 
lav not onlv Bernstein’s ‘ Revisionism \ but also the practical 


Essays in Social Theory 

attitude of the German Social Democratic majority which 
continued to profess its Marxist orthodoxy. For a time, 
insistence on the increasing severity of capitalist crises, and 
on the imminence of the destruction of capitalism from this 
cause, replaced ‘ increasing misery ’ in its simpler form as 
the great capitalist ‘ contradiction \ Then, for a time, the 
intensity of crises in the capitalist w orld grew much less ; 
and this form of the doctrine went out of fashion in its turn, 
only to be revived dramatically after 1918 and still more 
during the world-wide crisis of the 1930s. To-day, it still 
underlies the anxiety of hope or fear with which men from 
both sides of the Iron Curtain watch for the signs of a great 
American slump. 

Whatever be the truth or untruth of the view that 
capitalism, because of its tendency to multiply production 
faster than mass consuming power, can never escape from 
the recurrence of crises, it must be recognized that even if 
both the theory of capitalist crisis and the theory of increasing 
misery, and with them the theory of the progressive elimina- 
tion of the intermediate classes, were to be jettisoned from 
the doctrine of the Communist Manifesto , a great deal of 
Marx’s theory would be left intact. It was always a para- 
doxical view that, whereas the capitalists had climbed to 
political power by becoming both more wealthy and more 
powerful as a social force, the proletariat was expected to 
win power by becoming increasingly miserable. True, this 
was never the whole of Marx’s doctrine ; for he believed 
that the proletariat, even while its misery was increasing, 
was also growing stronger in consciousness and organization 
and was being impelled towards victory by the increasingly 
social and co-operative character of the work process itself 
— by the very loss of the labourer’s individuality, which 
made him more and more a mere unit in a vast impersonal 
labour force. Leave out the ‘ increasing misery ’, and the 
impending victory of the proletariat appears, not less, but 
more, a logical deduction from the trend of capitalist 
development. So indeed it appeared to more and more 
Socialists in the advanced countries, whereas in those 

r 78 

The Communist Manifesto of 1848 

countries which were still at the earlier stages of capitalist 
evolution, and had not even passed through the transition 
from feudal to bourgeois economy, the social doctrine of the 
Communist Manifesto continued to have a growing appeal — 
not least as political consciousness began to develop in 
exploited colonial areas, and as the Soviet Union, firmly 
established on a foundation of pure Marxist doctrine, was 
able to serve as world centre for the diffusion of Com- 
munist ideas. 

After all, the essence of the Manifesto was that it preached 
to the working classes of all the world a gospel of revolution 
and of self-reliance, tellwig them that their cause was one in 
all lands and that their emancipation must be their own work, 
in which the forces of historical evolution would be on their 
side. This stood, whatever might be the fate of the rest of 
the doctrines taught in the Manifesto , and however much of 
it might turn into mere mumbo-jumbo because it dealt with 
matters that had ceased to be of any current concern. The 
Manifesto remained alive — and kicking — because it was 
a gospel of hope to the oppressed, promising them, instead 
of God’s aid — in which they had been disappointed often 
enough — the rr*vyre tangible aid of the so-called ‘ material- 
istic * forces of social evolution, and promising this at a time 
when, as never before, the tremendous social impact of those 
very forces had been plainly demonstrated in the transforma- 
tions attendant on the Industrial Revolution. The Mani- 
festo's ‘ materialistic ’ approach fitted in with men’s positive 
experience of the world around them ; for everywhere men’s 
ways of living and the political structures of human societies 
were being fast transformed to fit in with the new class- 
structures based on the development of capitalism, or else the 
old State-systems and traditional ways of life were coming 
more and more into conflict with the rapidly developing 
economic forces. 

It must never be left out of mind in studying the Com- 
munist Manifesto that, though its outlook w T as definitely 
international, its origins were essentially German. I mean 
much more th^n that it was written by a German — Marx — 


Essays in Social Theory 

with the aid of another German — Engels. It was the pro- 
duct of a body — the Communist League — which was 
primarily a society of German exiles living in Brussels, Paris, 
and London. A few Frenchmen, a few Belgians, a few 
Poles, and a few Englishmen either belonged to the League 
or were in close touch with it ; but the main body in all 
three centres was German, and nowht-e had the League or 
the local groups out of which it arose m^de any wide im- 
pact on the national working-class and Socialist movements 
of their places of exile. In France, then the main centre of 
Socialist thought and agitation, Proudhon, Blanqui, Cabet, 
and Louis Blanc had all much lacger followings than the 
Communist League : in England the exiles were in close 
touch with Harney and Ernest Jones and a few other leading 
Chartists, and Engels with a wider circle ; but the main 
body of the Chartists was by no means under Communist 
influence, while the Owenites, still an important sect, stood 
altogether aloof from political action. The impending 
German Revolution, much more than the French or any 
other of the European Revolutions that came to a head in 
1848, was predominantly in Marx’s mind as he drafted in 
Brussels the document which the Communist League, urged 
on by Engels, had invited him to prepare. He regarded the 
coming events in Germany as the clue to the fate of con- 
tinental Europe, and fully expected Great Britain, despite 
its greater maturity as a capitalist country, to stand aside — 
for he was well aware that Chartism, at any rate for the time 
being, was on the wane. 

Exiled from Germany, and looking nostalgically at the 
4 Fatherland ’, the Germans in London, Paris, and Brussels, 
including Marx himself, undoubtedly both over-estimated 
in 1848 the strength of revolutionary feeling among the 
German workmen and partly misunderstood the character 
of that feeling. They could not help knowing the im- 
maturity of the German working-class from the standpoint 
of its proletarian status and outlook : indeed, this was what 
ledtthem to urge, as they did also in France, a temporary 
alliance with the petit-bourgeois Social Democrats, with whom 


The Communist Manifesto of 1848 

the large artisan element among the workers was closely 
connected. They did not, however, allow enough for this 
immaturity, which made it impracticable for the proletarian 
Communists to take the lead in the coming Revolution ; or 
perhaps one should say rather that, however fully they had 
admitted this immaturity in their private thoughts, they were 
not prepared to admit it publicly. Had they done so, they 
would have been # spoiling such chances as they had ; and 
the change, first proposed by Engels, from a mere statement 
of faith, or ‘ Communist Catechism *, to a manifesto meant 
that the felt imminence of revolution had converted the 
proposed document frorp a mere presentment of a case into 
a trumpet-call to action. In such a pronouncement no 
nicely objective evaluation of forces was to be expected : 
the purpose of the Manifesto was to declare not what the 
Communist League thought likely, but what it wanted, to 
occur, and to make the Communist movement appear as 
strong and as menacing as it could possibly be made out. 

I am not suggesting that Marx and his group were not 
interested in the European Revolution outside Germany. 
Of course they were deeply interested, for they held firmly 
that the Europer. - Revolution could not succeed unless it 
were international to the extent of covering the main areas 
of Western and Central continental Europe. They wanted, 
not a German but a continental revolution, extending to 
Poland and Austria-Hungary as well as to Germany and 
France and Belgium and Holland, and perhaps Switzerland 
and Italy and one or two other countries.* Of Russia they 
had no hopes, and few or none of England — none, of course, 
of the United States either, at that stage. But they thought 
of Germany and France as forming together the key area; 
and their hopes were centred on making this European 
revolution under the inspiration of German ideas and with 
the German workers as the main driving force to impel the 
whole mass forward from the stage of bourgeois to that of 
proletarian dominance. 

These were their hopes, well ahead of what the situation 
made possible, f as such hopes are apt to be. Their expecta- 


Essays in Social Theory 

tions, on the other hand, as far as can be judged from the 
preliminary papers given to Marx as a basis for his work as 
draftsman, were a long way behind these hopes, at any rate 
until the European revolutionary movement was already 
almost at boiling-point so as to carry their soberer thoughts 
away. In these papers — in the drafts for the proposed 
Catechism and in the statement of poi : cy issued in the sole 
published number of Kommunistische Zeitschrift of 1847 — it 
is reiterated that the Communists realize the impossibility 
of advancing all at once, even by revolution, to a Communist 
society. 4 The task of our generation ’, proclaims the 
Zeitschrift article, using words which also appeared in much 
the same form in Engels’ draft of the Catechism , 4 is to dis- 
cover and to bring to a practical stage the constructional 
materials that arc necessary for building the new edifice : 
the task of the generations to come will be to raise this edifice.’ 
No doubt, the Manifesto insists on the need to smash the 
existing State and to build a new structure under the 
dominance of the proletariat. It insists on the need for 
revolution as a first step towards the building of the new 
order (though even on this point the Zeitschrift makes tenta- 
tive exceptions in favour of Great Britain and the United 
States). But it is made evident that the State which needs 
to be smashed and replaced is the 4 police State ’ as it 
existed in Prussia and largely in France, and though the 
Manifesto speaks of 4 raising the proletariat to the position 
of ruling class to win the battle of democracy ’, the 4 dictator- 
ship ’ of which it*speaks is put on a par with the dictatorship 
actually exercised by the bourgeoisie as a ruling class, and 
does not appear to connote the establishment of a 4 one- 
party ’ State under complete Communist control, or a more 
than gradual transition from the old order to the new. 1 The 
proletariat ’, we are told, 4 will use its political supremacy 
to wrest, by degrees , all capital from the bourgeoisie , to 
centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the 
State, i.e. of the proletariat organised as the ruling class ; 
and* to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as 
possible.’ The passage which follows mak^s it clear that 


The Communist Manifesto of 1848 

only ‘ in the course of a development ’ to be spread over a 
succession of stages can class distinctions be expected to 
disappear, or all production to become concentrated in the 
hands of the new State. Only at the end of this process will 
States disappear ; for 4 political power, properly so called, 
is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing 
another and cannot survive the advent of a classless 
society. Thus, in«the view proclaimed in the Manifesto , all 
political power is 4 class dictatorship ’, and there is nothing 
distinctive about the dictatorship of the proletariat except 
the shift in the seat of class power. The dictatorship of the 
proletariat, in the form in which it appears in the Manifesto , 
is in no wise inconsistent with parliamentary democracy, 
provided that, at the outset, the revolution smashes the police 
State and puts in its place a set of institutions consistent 
with the exercise of power by the proletariat as a majority 
of the whole people. The 4 one-party State ’, and 4 dictator- 
ship * in the form that involves such a State, are not part of 
the doctrine set out in the Communist Manifesto. They are 
later developments of Marxist thought — indeed, largely 
Leninist glosses on what Marx wrote much later in The 
Civil War in France , dealing with the Paris Commune, and 
in his Critique of the C^tha Programme of 1875. 

One long section of the Communist Manifesto is concerned 
with a criticism of rival Socialist schools. This is bitterest 
in its attacks on what it calls 4 Feudal Socialism ’ as preached 
in France by certain royalist groups and in Great Britain by 
Disraeli and the ‘ Young England * party ;• on the various 
brands of so-called ‘ Christian Socialism 9 ; and on German 
4 True Socialism * based on Kantian and Hegelian philosophy, 
from which Marx had emancipated himself not so many 
years before. All these are attacked as fundamentally re- 
actionary, and as not really Socialism at all, because they rest 
on a denial of the class-struggle and of the historic mission of 
the proletariat as a class. 4 Petit-bourgeois Socialism ’ in turn 
comes under attack, because, though it exposes the evils of 
capitalist society, the real desire of those who profess it is tcrgo 
back to a pre-capitalist system in the interests of the independ- 


Essays in Social Theory 

ent small producer or trader and not forward to the col- 
lective control of the new powers unloosed by the Industrial 
Revolution. Finally, a contrast is drawn between Commun- 
ism, as a rallying cry for the entire proletariat, and ‘ Utopian 
Socialism ’, which merely dreams dreams of ideal societies, 
varying with each projector’s fancy, instead of concerning 
itself with what is practicable in terms of power- relations 
between the contending classes. The ‘ Utopian Socialisms * 
of Fourier and Saint-Simon and Robert Owen are dismissed 
as characteristic of an ‘ early, undeveloped period ’ in the 
struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie ; and the suc- 
cessors of these Utopists are severely censured for putting 
forward their dreams of the ideal as panaceas, instead of 
throwing themselves into the developing class -struggle. 
Both the draft Catechism and the Manifesto wax satirical at 
the expense of projectors who set out to plan the details of 
the new social order without giving any consideration to the 
means of realizing it save by the spell of their own per- 
suasive powers, which they try to exercise upon all men, 
instead of making a direct appeal to the proletariat as a class. 
Already in 1848 Marx was scornful of any form of idealist 
planning of the future, of any attempt to look beyond the 
struggle to its outcome, save in the most general terms of the 
evolution of class-power. This made him ungenerous to his 
Socialist predecessors, though he was in truth building 
largely on foundations which they had laid. The only 
predecessor to whom he did pay tribute at this time was 
Babeuf, who hSd attempted to raise in the great French 
Revolution the standard of proletarian revolt. Of Blanqui 
he was critical, because he in common with the rest of the 
Communist exiles both realized the danger of destroying 
their chances by premature uprisings that would invite more 
drastic suppression and disliked Blanqui’s conspiratorial 
methods and dissented from his notion that the revolution 
could be made by a picked corps of revolutionaries even 
without the support of the mass. Similarly, he objected 
strongly to Weitling’s notion of using the discontents of the 
Lumpenproletariat as a basis for revolutionary action. The 


The Communist Manifesto of 1848 

revolution, he held, must be made by the action of the most 
advanced sections of the proletariat, not the most backward ; 
and in order that it should be so made, the Communists 
must beware of constituting themselves a party or faction 
divorced from the actual leaders of the organized sections 
of the working class. The Communists must lead, not as a 
separate party, like the followers of Cabet or of Ledru-Rollin, 
but as the trusted confidants of the most active elements in 
the working class*as a whole. 

That they were in fact far, in 1848, from having achieved 
this leadership Marx must well have known. He and his 
friends knew too the danger of reducing themselves to a 
faction by creating a dogmatic programme of their own. 
They did not, however, consider that their formulation of 
the ‘ materialist conception of history ’ and of the theory of 
‘ class-struggle ’ constituted a programme in this sense, or 
would have the consequence of marking them off as a sect. 
Marx was very angry when Proudhon accused him of trying 
to put a new dogma in place of the old ones that were being 
dissolved by Socialist criticism : it was indeed this anger, 
more than anything else, that caused his acerbity in de- 
nouncing Proudhon in The Poverty of Philosophy , published 
in 1847. The doctrines of class -struggle and historical 
determinism, Marx he. J, would unite the proletariat — not 
divide it as did the rival Utopias of Owenites, Fourierites, 
Cabetites, Saint-Simonians, and the rest of the projecting 
sects. Thus, to Marx’s mind, the sharp intolerance of the 
Manifesto towards other Socialists was in n^ way inconsistent 
with the claim that the Communists’ aim was to unite the 
entire working class. 

At this point I must leave the Manifesto , having said 
nothing of its relation to the events of 1848 and the succeed- 
ing years of revolution and counter-revolution in Europe, 
for the simple and sufficient reason that there is nothing much 
to be said. 

The Communist Manifesto had but little influence on the 
course of events in 1848. The working classes were, not 
strong enough^ even if they had followed Marx’s guidance, 

185 • N 

Essays in Social Theory 

to make their own revolution or to take the leadership of the 
revolutionary forces in Europe. In those struggles of 1848 
the lead was inevitably taken by Nationalists, and by the 
advocates of capitalism who wanted freedom to develop 
private business enterprise without being controlled by 
monarchs or land-owning aristocrats who held fast to ob- 
solete feudal privileges. In 1848 these capitalistic forces 
were much stronger and better organized than the working 
class, which was still everywhere immature — even in 
England, where the Industrial Revolution had made by far 
the biggest advance. Over most of Europe the factory 
system, which has been the chief factor in crowding its 
workers into big towns and in the fostering of Trade Union- 
ism, was still at a rudimentary stage. Whatever Marx 
thought, it was by no means true in 1848 that Capitalism 
had reached the limits of its economic development or 
become a ‘ fetter * on the further advance of production. 

There is, however, a further thing to bear in mind about 
the conditions in which the Manifesto was written. In 1848, 
in most countries, very few people had the vote, and govern- 
ments were still very autocratic. There was but little freedom 
of speech or of organization : Trade Unions were still in 
most places liable to suppression ; working-class parties in 
the modern sense of the term did not exist. Working-class 
meetings were dispersed by the police, and working-class 
leaders were often imprisoned or exiled. There seemed to 
be no possibility for the workers of winning power by 
constitutional m,eans, or of organizing except by under- 
ground conspiracy. Even in Great Britain, which was the 
least shackled country, Trade Unions were still barely 
tolerated, and most of the working-class leaders had spent 
periods in prison, and saw no chance of successful parlia- 
mentary action. Not until 1867 did any substantial section, 
even of the skilled workers in Great Britain, get the right to 
vote. In these circumstances, it was inevitable that in 1848 
Socialists and Communists should turn to revolutionary, or 
at any rate to unconstitutional, action, as the only means of 
realizing their aims. Presently, however, in some countries, 


The Communist Manifesto of 1848 

though not in all, the situation changed. Very broadly, it 
can be said that in Western Europe parliamentary govern- 
ment developed in a democratic direction. The working 
men — more and more of them — got votes ; and the 
State was partly transformed so as to give more and more 
people some real share in political power and influence. 
Trade Unions were made lawful, and were able to bargain 
openly with the employers : the right to strike was recog- 
nized. Moreover, with the enlargement of the electorate 
went a growth of social legislation, which made the State 
seem less entirely the enemy of the working class. 

This, however, did m t happen everywhere. It happened 
least of all in Russia and over most of Eastern Europe ; and 
it happened to a much less extent in Germany than in Great 
Britain or over a good deal of Western Europe. This 
divergence of historical development led to conflicting 
interpretations of the doctrine of the Communist Manifesto. 
Where parliamentary democracy failed to grow, the cap still 
fitted ; and most Socialists continued to hold by the full 
revolutionary gospel according to Marx. On the other hand, 
where the chance was given for Socialists and Labour 
Parties to organic, constitutionally, to win seats in Parlia- 
ment, and to influent the course of social legislation, a 
great many Socialists turned away from revolutionary 
doctrines. Even if they continued to believe in the Material- 
ist Conception of History and in the Class- Struggle, they 
came to hold that Socialism might be won by peaceful 
conquest and by transformation of the existing State rather 
than by revolution which involved destroying the State and 
setting up a brand-new proletarian State in its stead. 

To-day, all over the world and not only in Europe, the 
Communist Parties are the exponents of the full Marxist 
gospel of the Communist Manifesto , which makes its appeal 
most strongly in countries which have never experienced the 
growth of parliamentary democracy of the Western type. 
Some Social Dcmociats try to argue that they and not 
the Communists are in truth faithful to Marx’s teaching * 
but what I do* know is that the Communist Manifesto is a 


Essays in Social Theory 

thoroughly and frankly revolutionary document, and that 
the modern Communists — for good or for ill — are acting 
very much in accordance with the letter of what it pre- 
scribes. But I know also that it is fully possible to agree 
largely, or even entirely, with the fundamental notion em- 
bodied in Marx’s Conception of History and in the Manifesto 
without accepting all the deductions w hich he drew from it, 
and that it is possible on this score to look back to the 
Manifesto as a great landmark in social thought without 
agreeing that the present-day Communists are right in 
regarding it as a satisfactory guide for the workers of the 
twentieth century all over the world 



Ideals and Beliefs of the Victorians 1 

T he Victorkm Age, and more particularly the earlier 
part of it, was an age of ‘ self-made men ’ — that is, 
of men who, from poverty and obscurity, had risen to 
positions of wealth and influence in society. To most of 
these men, and to most of their contemporaries, their rise 
seemed to have been due to certain personal qualities which 
they possessed much above other people. Their admirers 
spoke of these qualities as ‘ initiative, enterprise, personal 
driving force ’, and also as ‘ abstinence, frugality, and a 
self-control which enabled them to brush aside pleasure and 
other distractions, and to concentrate their energies on doing 
with all their might the job they had marked out for them- 
selves \ Their detractors painted a different picture, in 
which initiative and enterprise were metamorphosed into 
greed and overreaching, personal driving force into lust for 
irresponsible power, stinence and frugality into meanness, 
avarice, and a will to impose privation upon others, and self- 
control into a soulless lack of cultural values which left the 
new capitalists with no other interest in life than the pursuit 
of wealth in this world and of salvation in a next world which 
they conceived in the image of their own spiritual poverty. 

The truth, of course, lay betwixt and between these 
estimates. The age in which the early Victorians grew up 
was one in which, though many fortunes were made from 
lowly beginnings, the competitive struggle was always hard. 
Though many succeeded, many more failed, and were thrust 
dowm again into poverty : and most of the successes were 
not achieved without the aid, not only of very hard work, 
but also of big risks, tough times in the early stages, and, not 


Essays in Social Theory 

least, harshness, sometimes approaching savagery, in dealing 
with other men, and in particular with the men, women, and 
children who ranked with the machines they tended as in- 
dispensable ‘ factors of production \ For many among the 
successful the causes making for harshness in social be- 
haviour were aggravated by a kind of religion that stressed 
above all else the ‘ other-worldly ’ va’ues and looked on this 
world as a vale of tears and tribulations through which men 
must pass to a ‘ hereafter ’ to which the final values of life 
were firmly relegated. Religion, indeed, among the early 
Victorians, faced two ways ; and this was true above all of 
the various forms of Methodism, both inside and outside of 
the Established Church. One kind, much the most prevalent, 
stressed the need for the saving of souls, and made little of 
the material tribulations of men's — or even of children’s — 
bodies and minds under the impact of the new industrialism. 
The other kind, expressed in the work both of the Christian 
Socialists, such as Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles 
Kingsley, and in the efforts of the factory reformers, Richard 
Oastler and Joseph Rayner Stephens as well as Lord Shaftes- 
bury, insisted that the Kingdom of God was of this world 
as well as of the next, and denounced as intolerable in the 
eyes of God and man the hideous exploitation of the factory 
children — and indeed of the grown-ups as well. The 
Methodists of the first kind were intolerant of these criti- 
cisms : they had a feeling that worldly success was a test of 
achievement and that they could set about making money 
to the glory of God, provided only that they were scrupulous 
in the spending of it. In this spirit, even while they fought 
bitterly against all wage increases, all reductions in the hours 
of labour, and all attempts to impose on them even the most 
elementary rules of sanitation, heating, lighting, and ventila- 
tion of factories and employer-owned houses and tenements, 
they gave largely to build chapels, to support revivalist and 
temperance crusades, and to encourage societies for the 
suppression of vice and mendicancy. They felt no contrast 
in these attitudes, because they were so carried away by the 
immense achievements of the new industrial system in in- 


Ideals and Beliefs of the Victorians 

creasing productivity as to regard anyone who threatened to 
interfere with it as opposing himself to an order of natural 
development that was plainly ordained by God. 

These conditions, prevalent over more and more of the 
economic and social field despite all the efforts of the re- 
formers, bred an attitude of self-righteous assurance which 
was in most of the protagonists totally inaccessible to argu- 
ment. The effecj was to exalt self-reliance, which is un- 
doubtedly a virtue, into a contemptuous sweeping-aside of 
‘ failure *, which emphatically is not. I am not at all suggest- 
ing that this attitude went at any stage unchallenged. It 
did not. Indeed, the revolt against it had begun long before 
the Great Queen ascended the throne. Thomas Carlyle was 
already fulminating against the ‘ dismal science 9 ; Lord 
Shaftesbury was already heading the crusade for factory 
reform ; Robert Owen had long been proclaiming the 
superiority of co-operation over competition when William 
IV died. The Chartist agitation, with its impassioned cry 
for social justice and against the horrors of the New Poor 
Law and the factory system, was already beginning. Trade 
Unionism, heavily crushed in 1834, was already again 
raising its head. Nevertheless, though always challenged, 
the attitude I have been describing was largely dominant 
among the successful , and it spread downwards through 
the social structure, infecting every grade of minor manager, 
supervisor, and foreman — indeed, everyone who, having 
got a foot on any grade of the social ladder, saw in imitation 
of those higher up the line hope of rising bbth in status and 
in social prestige. The early Victorian Age was one in 
which the thoroughgoing believers in the benefits of laissez- 
faire had most things their own way. Employers refused to 
discuss anything with their operatives except on a basis of 
purely individual bargaining, on the plea that anything else 
violated freedom of contract and undermined the personal 
relation between man and man. The Poor Law, the only 
form of public relief open to the destitute or the unemployed, 
was administered in a spirit of ferocious deterrence which 
even humane t men sought to justify as necessary if the 

Essays in Social Theory 

springs of self-reliance were not to be weakened. Nor was it 
only against State charity that the shafts of the enthusiasts 
were directed : they attacked ‘ indiscriminate ’ voluntary 
charity just as fiercely, and sought to limit it to the 1 de- 
serving ’ and to those who could be helped by it to help 

Let us remember that what was occurring in the early 
Victorian era was a stage — in a sense the first stage — in 
the process that leads on to democracy. Under the impact 
partly of ideas let loose by the French Revolution and partly 
of the new conditions of mass-aggregation of workers in 
factories and in factory towns, the 1 lower classes * were 
making, incoherently and often turbulently, their claim to 
be recognized as men entitled to equal claims and rights. 
This challenge was not so much resented as feared both by 
the older governing classes, which saw in it a threat to their 
conceptions of good and civilized standards of living, and 
also by the 4 new men ’ who had raised themselves out of 
the mass by making themselves the masters of the new 
techniques of production and of control. Fear, as always, 
prompted repression, and conduced to sheer inhumanity 
towards those of whom the superior classes were afraid. 
Even the more progressive and the more humanitarian among 
the educated classes were subject to this fear of the mass. 
Shaftesbury, ardent for factory reform, was intensely hostile 
to every sort of Radicalism ; and such men as John Bright, 
who were ardent political Radicals, bitterly opposed factory 
reform. Most rfiiddle-class Radicals, even if they wished 
to bring in a wider electorate in order to reinforce their 
power against the older aristocracy, stopped short at the will 
to enfranchise the 4 respectable ’ artisans — as was done in 
1867 by the second Reform Act — and remained full of fear 
of the great illiterate mass below. They could never join 
hands with Chartism, because it derived its strength as a 
movement so largely from these very untutored masses of 
which they were afraid. 

Hostility to demands for social legislation, and insistence 
on self-reliance as the sovereign virtue which nothing must 


Ideals and Beliefs of the Victorians 

be done by the State or by private charity to undermine, thus 
proceeded from a mixture of motives and attitudes — from 
a feeling of triumphant self-assurance resting on the new 
industrialism ; from fears that anything done to meet the 
claims of discontent would serve only to strengthen the 
dangerously uneducated and uncivilized mass of common 
people ; and from an other-worldliness which discounted the 
importance of suffering in this world, and even regarded 
it — at any rate for others — as wholesome purgation for 
the life to come. 

The second half of the Victorian era saw a powerful 
reaction against these attitudes, and converted the protesters 
against them from voices crying in the wilderness into in- 
creasingly influential inspirers of many movements of social 
reform. Each battle was hard-fought, and, of course, there 
was no complete victory of one attitude over janother ; but, 
by ancflarge, the change was great and unmistakable. Now 
why ? 

Not, I think, mainly because the reformers made out a 
better case than they had been making earlier, when they 
were kicking vainly against the pricks. It was much more 
because the classe.. which had some share in social power — 
classes enlarged by the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884 
— were very much less afraid than they had been of the 
classes below them. As the wealth generated by high pro- 
ductivity filtered down — and it had to filter down if there 
were to be outlets for the vastly increased output of goods 
and services — a larger proportion of the •common people 
became more civilized, turned away from the violence of 
hunger-revolts, set to work to imitate in some degree the 
behaviour of its ‘ betters * • — and, in doing these things, 
became less a source of both rational and irrational fears. 
The cry ‘ we must educate our masters ’ was heard : the 
prospect of democracy became, for the time, much less 
terrifying both to the cultured and to the rich. There w r as 
accordingly less opposition to anything that looked like 
concession to the claims of the poor, and also more readiness 
to regard the p#>or as men and women possessing elementary 

J 93 

Essays in Social Theory 

rights and claims. Nor can we afford to disregard the fact 
that the industrial system itself was becoming less a jungle 
of unregulated struggle to survive. Joint stock companies 
were spreading fast ; more power was in the hands of big 
businesses, and more of the big businesses were run by men 
of the second or third generation — men who had inherited 
fortunes, even if they went on greatly to enlarge them, and 
had not started with nothing and made their own way in the 
world. Such men were less ruthless, because any act of ruth 
exposed them much less to the threat of ruin. They were 
beginning to take for granted that they must treat certain 
minimum conditions in their factories as objective costs that 
had to be met, and would fall upon their competitors as well 
as on themselves. The more the scale of business increased, 
the more these new conditions applied, and the less resist- 
ance was offered to the growth of Trade Unions and to the 
recognition of at any rate some rights of collective bargain- 
ing. As business became more impersonal, there was less 
insistence on the purely individual character of the wage- 
contract, as between each master and each separate workman. 
Where the business was a collectivity, it was easier for the 
workers’ collective, the Trade Union, to force its way. 
There was also under these conditions much less resentment 
at factory legislation as an infraction of the employer’s 
personal rights — for a company could less easily plead to 
be the embodiment of the virtues of individual self- 

How far did <this change go — how far has this change 
gone in the much further development of it in the world of 
to-day — in undermining personal qualities which are in- 
dispensable for the health of society ? The answer is not 
nearly so simple as many who have attempted to give one 
would have us believe. In the first place, of whom arc we 
speaking ? The Victorian Age — particularly in its earlier 
phase — was an age of sharp contrasts. If it encouraged in 
some people — the successful and the climbers who were 
seeking success — not merely a spirit of self-reliance but a 
perversion of that spirit into an exaggerated pushfulness and 


Ideals and Beliefs of the Victorians 

disregard of others, equally, at the other end of the scale, it 
discouraged these qualities in the great mass of the people. 
It did this by keeping them much too low to give such 
attitudes of mind any scope. The thriftless and the slavishly 
dependent were fully as much the characteristic products 
of the early Victorian Age as the abstinent and the self- 
assertive ; and it is quite beyond doubt that as social condi- 
tions in general improved later in the century a very large 
number of people were lifted up to positions which gave 
them the chance both of practising thrift and self-reliance 
and of becoming members of the community in a far more 
real sense. This aspect of the great change must be kept 
always in mind. The huge scope which the conditions of 
the early Victorian era offered to personal initiative and 
enterprise — for both good and evil — for some of the 
people had as their correlative a sheer denial of such oppor- 
tunities to a much greater number. True, the two groups 
were not marked off from each other by any sharp definition 
of status. Men could rise out of the one into the other ; but 
for one who possessed the qualities required for such a 
self-elevation there were a hundred who did not, and were 
condemned to t u e fate of ‘ devil-take-the-hindmost ’ by 
the arduous conditions of the struggle. 

The other factor working against the current of laissez- 
faire doctrines in the 1840s I shall call, with picturesque 
licence, 4 Chadwick’s nose \ Edwin Chadwick, the archi- 
tect of the new Poor Law and the most hated man in 
England, was fanatically devoted to laissez-faire notions in 
many respects, and no man believed more strongly in the 
supreme virtue of self-reliance. But this same Chadwick 
was also the principal inspirer of the hrst effective Factory 
Act — that of 1833 — and when, in the 1840s, he visited 
the factory districts again and smelt the fetid odour of 
poverty for himself, no man cried out louder that it was the 
public’s business to ensure the supply of pure water and of 
efficient drainage in the grow ing towns, to enforce reasonable 
sanitary precautions against infectious and contagious 
diseases, and Jo give the town populations an environment 

T 95 

Essays in Social Theory 

that would afford them at any rate some chance of living 
decent, happy and self-reliant lives. 

Chadwick was a disciple of the great Jeremy Bentham, 
who preached at all seasons the paramountcy of the utili- 
tarian principle — the greatest happiness of the greatest 
number. It is important to understand this principle aright, 
if one wishes to understand the movement of ideas in 
Victorian England, because it is so often misunderstood by 
those who confuse Benthamism with laissez-faire. The two 
were in truth radically different. The laissez-faire advocates 
said — as Herbert Spencer said later — that everything 
would come reasonably right if only the State would let 
matters alone to take their natural course. Bentham, on 
the other hand, maintained that, where men’s interests were 
not naturally harmonious, it was the State’s business, by 
legislation, to establish an artificial harmony of interests 
that would serve to promote the greatest happiness of the 
greatest number. Bentham did indeed argue that most of 
the existing forms of State regulation were harmful because 
they neither promoted nor were designed to promote this 
harmony of interests. He wanted to sweep most of the 
existing regulations away, and he believed that most things 
would be better unregulated than ill- regulated as they were. 
But the Benthamites, as far as they were true to their master, 
were never against State regulation as such. They were in 
favour of it, wherever it could be applied in such a way as to 
procure the greatest happiness of the greatest number. 

That brings c me back to Chadwick’s nose. Chadwick 
smelt the towns, knew that they were not good, and set out 
to get them put to rights. He was not tactful about it, and 
he encountered ferocious opposition ; but, helped by the 
cholera scare, he did start modern sanitary legislation right 
in the middle of the hey-day of capitalist laissez-faire. 

In the case of the Factory Acts, it was possible to argue 
that, as the legislation applied only to children and later to 
women — who were not regarded as able to look after 
the,mselves — the sacred principle of leaving he-men to sole 
reliance on themselves, under the system gf free contract, 


Ideals and Beliefs of the Victorians 

was not being infringed. But pure water and drains could 
not be provided for women and children only : the Health 
legislation of 1848 embodied a recognition of the fact that 
individual men were not in a position to look after them- 
selves and that public compulsion was needed to protect 
them — and therewith the whole community — against 
preventable disease and misery. It was the thin — I agree, 
the very thin — end of a wedge which has been hammered 
in harder and harder ever since. That was why a laissez- 
faire Parliament, as soon as it dared, swept Chadwick’s 
General Board of Health away. But Parliament could not 
sweep away the Local Bgards which had been set up under 
the same Act ; and from that time on the health activities 
of Local Government began steadily to grow, until in the 
1870s two great Public Health Acts gave full recognition to 
the principle of State responsibility in that particular field. 

The growth of social legislation, of education, of Trade 
Unions and Co-operative Societies, and of the standard of 
life, in the latter part of the nineteenth century created, I 
feel sure, a much greater sum-total of self-reliance and 
personal sense of responsibility than it did away with by 
mitigating the severity of the competitive struggle. If we 
are simply counting heads that is a sufficient answer. But, 
of course, it will be replied that this is a quite illegitimate 
way of stating the case. The qualities of a community, it 
will be said, depend, not on the characteristics diffused over 
the main body of the public, so much as on those which are 
found among its leaders in the various walk* of life. Thus, 
even if a hundred households gained in self-reliance and 
personal responsibility for every one that lost, the gain may 
be regarded as more than outweighed if ihe one that lost was 
performing an indispensable function of social leadership. 
I am not stating this as my view — for it strikes at the 
very heart of the democratic conceptions in which I believe. 
I am stating it as a view, much more widely held than clearly 
expressed, which has to be taken into account. 

My contention on this point is that the development of 
State intervention, of social legislation, and of collective 


Essays in Social Theory 

bargaining based on the recognition of Trade Union rights 
was not the cause of any decline that occurred in the initiat- 
ive, the enterprise, and the self-reliance of the leaders of 
late Victorian and of more recent society. The causes of the 
change in attitude among these leading groups arose, as did 
the social legislation and the rest of the new developments, 
out of the changes in the underlying social and economic 
situation. The era of scrambling competitive capitalism 
passed away as the scale of enterprise increased, as the leading 
types of business became less personal, as team-work of 
necessity superseded purely individual business adventure, 
and as ownership and management were more and more 
divorced. I do not say that the change was exclusively the 
result of this economic process ; but I do say that the 
economic changes brought into the big business partnerships 
based on wide shareholding an elite which was much less 
able, or even minded, to resist to the last the increasing 
pressure of an enlarged electorate, an enlarged body of 
educated opinion, and a growingly powerful movement 
demanding social security. Under these circumstances, the 
early Victorian type of hard-faced man ceased to be admired 
as he had been, or to command the same prestige ; and the 
attractions of behaving as such a man grew less. I am 
entirely unable to regret this : indeed, it appears to me as an 
enormous advance in civilization and decent living ; but 
what I have to admit is that the problems of eliciting the 
required responses of initiative and enterprise under the 
changed conditions were most inadequately faced. 

This inadequacy has three distinct aspects. In the first 
place, whereas the preceding conditions had left the indi- 
vidual entrepreneur always on his toes, in the pursuit of 
fortune or for the avoidance of bankruptcy, the new condi- 
tions made it much harder to go bankrupt, and much easier 
to arrange ‘ gentlemen’s agreements ’ to lessen the com- 
petitive struggle between firms. Thus, the road was cleared 
for the development of various forms of monopoly — from 
trade agreements between competitors to vast mergers into 
trusts and combines which could dominate the market. 


Ideals and Beliefs of the Victorians 

Personal risks were greatly reduced in this way, and it 
became much easier for big business men to survive both 
without any great effort to improve their methods and 
without going nearly so far as they had done in screwing 
the last ounce of energy out of their workers for the lowest 
possible wage. 

Secondly, management, divorced more and more from 
ownership, and no longer staking personal survival on the 
fortunes of the businesses it served, could afford to relax, 
and to accept a customary standard instead of trying con- 
tinually to keep a step ahead. 

Thirdly, pressure on the workers grew less, both because 
they had organizations behind them to fight their competitive 
battles, and because the State no longer took sides, at any 
rate so openly, against them, and also because there were less 
urgent purely physical compulsions of threatened starvation 
and destitution to drive most of them on. 

In face of these new factors — which, I would remind 
you, were necessary concomitants of the new phase of 
industrial development — there was a clear need to work out 
new incentives and new ways of eliciting initiative and enter- 
prise, at all levels; within the limiting conditions set by the 
changed structure of the economic system. These problems 
of a changing society were, however, simply not faced — 
mainly because the new conditions came in gradually and 
piecemeal, and in such a way that their nature was seldom 
clearly recognized. The result, seen in our own day, has 
been a society in which, on the one hand^the qualities of 
self-reliance and personal responsibility are more widely 
diffused than ever before, in the sense that they reach further 
down the social scale, but at the same time the application 
of these qualities to production and to business generally 
has been in some degree lessened because, in these fields, 
they need now to be applied in a different, and a much more 
demociatic, way. 

And yet . . . quite a number of people will say . . . surely 
the present generation is a good deal less . . . strongly 
personal than jhe people portrayed by Charles Dickens or 


Essays in Social Theory 

even than the types who appear in lesser Victorian novelists 
— by whose writings, in default of other evidence, most of 
us are apt to judge of the characteristics of the generation 
before us. I agree : of course the modern age is much more 
standardized in manners, and therewith less obviously 
idiosyncratic or, if you will, less eccentric, as well as less 
proud of being masterful ... or ev m bullying. Popular 
education has combined with the growing standardization 
of working conditions to produce this* effect. The Sam 
Wellers and Mark Tapleys of to-day are less flamboyantly 
individual ; the Silas Marners, too, have been largely 
obliterated by the growth of large-scale production, and the 
Gradgrinds grind a good deal less hard, and with less pride 
in grinding, than used to be the case. But, even after we 
have discounted the novelist’s licence in presenting such 
characters as these, we cannot reasonably identify personality 
with peculiarity, or responsibility with eccentricity, or enter- 
prise with bullying. A man can be as self-reliant as Mark 
Tapley without expressing himself in so Dickensian a fashion. 
And he can be a much better business man than Gradgrind 
and have better morals as well as better manners. The real 
question is whether men have become less enterprising, as 
well as less idiosyncratic. 

On that point, I have said already what I believe the 
truth to be. I believe it to be nonsense to suggest that 
modern social legislation, in limiting the burdens falling on 
the individual, has lessened self-reliance or the feeling of 
personal responsibility. There are, I know, a good many 
people who maintain that personal responsibility has been 
undermined by the modern growth of social provision. I 
agree, of course, that it has been limited , in the sense that the 
State now does a great deal more for the individual than it 
used to do. I deny, however, that this has involved a de- 
struction of personal responsibility. On the contrary, it has 
enabled a great many more people squarely to face their 
responsibilities, by making these less impossibly burden- 
sopie. The modern parent, by and large, does not feel less 
responsibility for the welfare of his children c than his parents 


Ideals and Beliefs of the Victorians 

or grandparents did : he feels more. There are a great 
many fewer cases of neglect, of sheer abandonment, of what 
readers of Dickens will recognize if I call it ‘ Tom-all-alone- 
ness than there were in the Victorian Age ; and this is not 
only because parents are compelled to behave better, but at 
least as much because they are given a better chance and a 
more manageable task. Nor does the case of children stand 
alone : there is also much less insanitariness of personal and 
household behaviour, except among a quite small group, not 
only because higher standards are enforced and slums 
cleared, but also because there are fewer 4 down and outs * 
who have been left, in jhe name of personal responsibility, 
to stew in their own juice under the conditions of free 
contract and no State interference. Doubtless the new 
conditions have made some men less abstinent — less willing 
to sacrifice present enjoyments for the sake of the future. 
But is this a bad thing ? I am sure it is not ; for I am sure 
that the Victorian exaggeration of the virtues of abstinence 
and thrift was the cause of a great deal of quite unnecessary 
suffering. This does not mean that I underestimate the 
need to secure, in the community as a whole, a level of 
saving high enough to provide for increasing population and 
for a rising standard of life. Assuredly I do not ; but, in 
the first place, I hold mat the requisite level of productive 
saving can be achieved by collective action as well as by 
personal abstinence, and in the second place I deny that 
thrift has decreased among the poorer classes — whatever 
may have happened among the rich. The decline in ab- 
stinence among some sections of the people has been much 
more than offset by the spread of saving to a much larger 
proportion of the whole — a spread made possible by the 
general improvement in living standards, which is itself 
partly a product of the very social legislation that is accused 
of undermining personal responsibility. 

That is half the answer ; but the other half remains. The 
early Victorians relied on the drives inherent in a particular 
sort of temperament to impel both the possessors themsdves 
and the rest qf the people — the great majority. Such a 


Essays in Social Theory 

solution was essentially undemocratic, and its inconsistency 
with political democracy has been sufficiently proved here, 
and is, I think, being proved even in the United States. We, 
as a democracy, at any rate in purpose and in the making, 
have to find ways of getting the drives and incentives that 
are requisite for high industrial production on different and 
on more democratic terms. How wt should set about the 
task it is none of my business to attempt to say in this essay : 
all I can say, in conclusion, is that I feel sure the thing can 
be done, and that we ought to have set about doing it a very 
long while ago. Indeed, I have been saying just that — not, 
I fear to much purpose — for the best part of forty years. 



The Claims of Nationality 1 

N ationality is, by the common consent of those 
who have made the attempt, exceedingly difficult to 
define. The question ‘ How many nations are there 
in Europe ? ’ is simply unanswerable, because nationality is 
a matter not of absolute being or not being, but also of 
feeling or not feeling. It does not imply, though the sense of 
it may be strengthened by, a community of blood : it can 
exist, though not without frictions, in the absence of a 
common language ; and it admits of varying degrees of 
intensity. It is possible for a collection of persons to be 
more or less a nation ; and it is also possible for a group, 
lying between two more clearly defined peoples, to be quite 
uncertain which way its national allegiance lies. Nor is 
nationality a fixed concept in time : national consciousness 
can wax and wane, die out altogether, or be re-created when 
it has seemed for a lor time to have lost all its force. 

These uncertainties do not, however, mean that nation- 
ality is unimportant. Quite the contrary. It is, among the 
majority of Europeans, an exceedingly powerful sentiment — 
one which moves the ordinary man to deeds of enthusiasm 
and sacrifice more readily than any other Social or political 
concept. It is not so continuous a motive as that of economic 
self-interest ; but this is not because it is weaker, but rather 
because the occasions which evoke it as a stimulus to action 
are, in modern societies, fewer and more intermittent. It is, 
I think, all the more powerful when it is evoked because it 
is not, like the economic motive, being continually practised 
upon small things. For it is in response to rare calls, and 
not to everyday stimuli, that men show their capacity for 
heroic doings. * 


Essays in Social Theory 

Powerful as the sentiment of nationality is, its predomi- 
nance as an inducement to heroism is relatively modern. 
Only during the nineteenth century did it become widely 
diffused among the main body of the peoples. An English- 
man of the days of Nelson resisted the press-gang without 
any sense of behaving unpatriotically ; and no one expected 
the peasants of pre-revolutionary France to be moved by a 
passion for serving the fatherland. It has often been said 
that, though the Nation State came in with the Renaissance 
and the Reformation, the spirit of national patriotism began 
as a popular sentiment, over most of Europe, only with the 
French Revolution of 1789. The watchwords of that 
revolution were ‘ Liberty, Equality, Fraternity ’ ; but these 
words came, as a consequence of it, to be interpreted 
practically in nationalistic terms. 

The rise of the Nation State obviously corresponded 
closely to economic needs. It was indispensable for eco- 
nomic security and progress that there should be laws 
uniformly administered over wide territories, national 
markets liberated from the restrictions of local tolls and 
monopolies, large-scale authorities to foster the growth of 
trade and enterprise in distant regions, improved means of 
communication across wide countrysides, and a host of other 
developments which required unified administration over 
the largest manageable areas. These needs did not by them- 
selves call the National State into being ; but they caused 
those who were aware of them to take the side of the 
monarchs who were seeking to consolidate their hold over 
great bodies of subjects, and thus ensured the success of the 
State-builders’ plans. 

But this process of building Nation States did not connote 
any widespread growth of the sentiment of nationality. The 
enthusiasms which entered into the wars of the seventeenth 
century were religious rather than national. Where national 
sentiment existed at all, it was mainly an aristocratic and 
not a popular passion. It needed the conception of demo- 
cracy — of States as belonging to their peoples rather than 
to their kings or to a ruling oligarchy — tc give national 


The Claims of Nationality 

sentiment a lodging in the minds of the common run of 

As the spirit of democracy was aroused, it naturally 
sought first of all to make conquest of the Nation States 
which were by then the established units of government. In 
each country, those who struggled to make their State demo- 
cratic and their own came, in proportion to their success or 
even out of proportion to it, to attach to the Nation State 
their collective sentiment for democracy ; and out of this 
marriage the sentiment of national patriotism as a popular 
passion was born. When it had been born two further con- 
sequences followed. Aristocrats sought to detach the senti- 
ment of patriotism from the democratic sentiment which 
had inspired it, and to convert it into an instrument of the 
Nation State in its undemocratic form. This attempt is 
visible in the history of Hegelianism as a political theory, 
and in the record of many Nationalist Parties — for example, 
those of Germany and Italy. At the same time, there were 
many States in which it was very difficult for a common 
democratic sentiment of nationality to be aroused, because 
they were made up of subjects not only speaking different 
languages, but alsc living at widely different levels of culture, 
practising different religions, and having little in common 
beyond subjection to a single ruler. In such countries, 
nationalism developed on the one hand as the sentiment of 
a ‘ superior ’ national group which claimed the right to shape 
the State to suit its own convenience, and on the other 
as a revolt of the 4 inferior * groups, whiph acquired, and 
subsequently rationalized under intellectual leadership, 
nationalist sentiments of their own. These latter sentiments, 
in the circumstances of the time, inevitably took shape in 
political nationalist movements aiming at the creation of 
new, separate Nation States, or, at the very least, autonomous 
national governments within a wider federal grouping. 

Thus, in general, the Nation State arose first, and the 
sentiment of nationality thereafter became attached to it. 
But among subjected peoples the sentiment of nationality 
arose by way pf reaction from the nationalism of the ruling 

Essays in Social Theory 

peoples, and shaped itself as a desire to create new Nation 
States. In both cases the ideas of nationality and of state- 
hood became very closely linked together in men’s minds. 
It seemed as if only by creating or keeping for themselves a 
separate Nation State could men hope to have the means 
of satisfying their common national desires. 

The Nation State, from the time ol its birth right up to 
its full development in the course of the nineteenth century, 
was on the whole a liberating influence* in the economic 
field. It had, indeed, increasingly manifest disadvantages 
as the markets of the world became increasingly inter- 
national and as the interdependence of one country and 
another in economic matters grew greater. But it had for 
the merchants and industrialists the immense advantage of 
giving them an assured basis of operations governed firmly 
by laws which met their principal needs, and in addition a 
treaty-making body which could with a fair degree of success 
protect them in their dealings across State frontiers. As 
trade and industry were predominantly a matter of com- 
petitive private enterprise, what the traders and indus- 
trialists chiefly wanted was the effective operation of law, 
national and international, on principles consistent with 
their needs and interests. This the system of Nation States 
gave them to a thoroughly satisfying extent ; and accordingly 
the mercantile interests, despite the internationalism of trade, 
were in general strong upholders of the Nation State and 
of the sentiment of nationality as attaching to it. 

Only towards,, the end of the nineteenth century, and then 
not everywhere, did the possibilities of a serious clash be- 
tween the limits of Nation States and the requirements of 
the economic order begin to appear. The first clear sign of 
this clash was the raising of protective tariff walls designed 
to limit international trade in the interests of national pro- 
duction. Each National State, or rather its rulers, desired 
to be as powerful as possible ; and each group of traders or 
producers within it saw a prospect of securing differential 
advantages for itself if it could get the State’s support. In 
one country after another, the rulers and th e industrialists 


The Claims of Nationality 

carried through a ‘ deal ’ — the rulers desiring particular 
forms of home economic development as a means to national 
power and the industrialists seeing prospects of better profits 
in a monopolized home market than in world-wide free com- 
petition with the industrialists of other countries. With this 
development went also the growth of economic imperialism 
— the attempt by States to promote both wealth and 
national glory by appropriating less advanced countries, 
which could be made valuable either as closed or prefer- 
ential markets or as exclusive sources of raw materials, or 
as fields for profitable investment and * honourable * employ- 
ment for the surplus chijdren of the ruling classes. 

This type of imperialism was not, of course, new in the 
latter part of the nineteenth century — witness India ; but it 
received at that time a greatly extended application, above 
all in the rapid partition of the African continent after 1880. 
With this process went a grafting on of imperialist to 
national sentiment, accompanied by a profound modifica- 
tion in its character. There had been from the first an 
imperialist element in the nationalism of those peoples who 
ruled over subject groups within their State territories — for 
example, Russians, Hungarians, Germans, and also of course 
the British peoples. But the new imperialism was different 
from this, because it began to envisage the world in terms 
of a few Empires, dominated by chosen nations with a 
mission of ‘ civilization ’ — and economic exploitation — 
akin to that of the Roman Empire in the ancient world. 

From that time Nationalism and Imperialism were in- 
volved in curiously complicated relationships. Nationalism 
existed as the enemy of Imperialism among subject peoples 
at all stages of civilization save the very lowest ; and it was 
notable that the less advanced the people the more its 
nationalist movement usually stood for the claims of a privi- 
ledged order within it (e.g. Arab landowners, Indian mill- 
owners, Slovakian landlords and church dignitaries). At 
the other extreme, among ruling peoples Nationalism and 
Imperialism tended to appear as allies, and even to fus^ up 
to a point, int<^ a mixed sentiment. Finally, in Nation States 


Essays in Social Theory 

which had no dependent empires Nationalism existed as a 
sentiment attached primarily to the idea of the separateness 
and independence of the State, though in States of mixed 
language and culture there were sometimes secondary in- 
fluences pulling different ways towards the Nationalisms of 
their greater neighbours (e.g, in Belgium). 

In all these varied forms, Nationalism has come to be 
closely associated with the idea of political independence. 
Each group which looks upon itself as a nation wants to 
have a State of its own, partly out of a rational desire to 
satisfy its collective aspirations, preserve and develop its 
common culture, and be able to h^ve its public affairs ad- 
ministered in its own language and by officials who share 
its collective peculiarities and outlook, but also partly be- 
cause statehood has come to be regarded as the hallmark of 
national success. Each group which has a State wants its 
State to be expressive of its national character, and tends to 
seek the suppression within its borders of any rival expres- 
sion of nationality, both as a potential source of weakness 
and disaffection and as inconsistent with the essential char- 
acter of the Nation State. In all Western Europe Switzer- 
land stands alone as the example of a Nation State based 
on equality among a number of peoples speaking different 
languages, practising different religious observances, and 
possessing strong affinities to three larger neighbouring 
States. Every other ‘ mixed ’ State is troubled, in greater 
or lesser degree, by malcontent nationalist movements 
among its linguistic, religious, or racial minorities. 

Nationalism pressed to these lengths could never have 
prevailed without coming into conflict with the basic 
economic needs of the peoples. But the nationalism of the 
larger national groups was not, until quite recently, open to 
serious objection on this score. On the contrary, it was on 
the whole a unifying force, facilitating more than it hindered 
higher production and the exchange of goods over larger 
areas. Most of the smaller groups whose national separate- 
ness^would have been at any time an economic nuisance did 
not attain to independent statehood until the^- Peace Settle- 

' 208 

The Claims of Nationality 

merits of 1919 and 1920 set up in Europe a number of new 
States, made out of fragments of the old Austro-Hungarian 
and Russian Empires. Thus, one result of Versailles and of 
the other treaties imposed after the first World War was to 
aggravate very greatly the discrepancy between political 
frontiers and economic needs, by actually breaking up what 
had been single economic systems into a number of separate 
fragments and delineating new frontiers with the scantiest 
regard for the complex structures of production and ex- 
change. The consequent disturbance of economic balance 
was one powerful factor driving the greater States towards 
attempts at economic self-sufficiency, or at least towards the 
re-creation within their frontiers of industries which they 
had lost by the peace, or towards the creation of industries 
which they deemed essential to their security in the event of 
war. In the extreme case, it led them towards war itself, as 
a means of achieving autarkic by bringing ‘ complementary 1 
countries under their control. 

The entire period between the two wars was one of in- 
creasing economic nationalism — deliberately willed in some 
cases, and in others forced on reluctant governments by the 
behaviour of thei: neighbours or by the general chaos of 
world economic affairs Rising tariffs on a much higher 
scale than before 1914 showed the strength of this tendency ; 
but soon there were added to tariffs all manner of devices 
for fostering home industries and limiting foreign competi- 
tion — subsidies to manufacturers, quotas imposed upon 
importers, licensing systems, exchange consols which regu- 
lated foreign trade indirectly by granting or refusing the 
means of payment, special bilateral arrangements for the 
direct exchange of surpluses and for the clearing of past 
debts and current commercial accounts, and so on. The 
collapse of the gold standard and the enforced substitution 
of monetary ‘ management ’ for a mainly automatic regula- 
tion ol financial affairs provided ready opportunities for the 
manipulation of foreign trade in the supposed interest of the 
nation ; and every step taken by one Nation State lejl to 
reprisals or parallel movements by others. 

Essays in Social Theory 

All this time the swift advance of industrial technique was 
bringing larger and larger productive units into existence 
and creating an imperative need for larger markets. Many 
of the characteristic industries of the twentieth century — 
for example, the making of motor-cars — cannot be carried 
on at all on an economic basis by a small country dependent 
on its home market ; and some of the greatest basic indus- 
tries — e.g. steel-making — can be located only at a very high 
cost in countries which lack the right combinations of fuel 
and raw materials. This situation has tremendous military 
as well as economic consequences. As war became more and 
more a matter of intensive mechanization — of great air 
fleets and panzer divisions, of oil and rubber, and of skill in 
the mechanical arts, and still more recently of very costly 
atomic plants — the armed forces of the smaller nations 
grew nearly helpless against the more advanced military 
equipment which only a few great States could afford or 
command. It had been a postulate of nineteenth-century 
Nationalism that even small Nation States could at need 
put up enough resistance to the forces of their greater neigh- 
bours to make the latter think twice before attacking them, 
and could defend themselves long enough for allies to mobil- 
ize and come to their help. It was an unspoken postulate of 
the Peace Treaties of 1909 and 1910 that this condition still 
held good, and that alliances of small nations could possess 
a significant amount of military strength. But the events 
of 1913 and 1914 showed very plainly that these conditions 
had practically qeased to operate, and that a great, highly 
mechanized army, accompanied by a great force of fighting 
and bombing airplanes, even in the absence of atomic war- 
fare, could simply blast out of its way the feeble resistance 
which could be offered by any lesser Power, or by any 
possible combination of lesser Powers. 

These events plainly foreshadowed the impending dis- 
appearance of a state system based on the idea of national 
independence as a sovereign right of men. For the Sovereign 
Statp which cannot defend itself, even for a time, against 
foreign attack is an obvious impostor, laying claim to an 


The Claims of Nationality 

authority which it does not in fact possess. In the circum- 
stances of to-day, the only Nation State which can in truth 
possess the attributes of sovereign independence is the great 
State ; and in the case of great States surrounded by smaller 
neighbours it is inevitable, if State Sovereignty is to remain 
the basis of political relationships, that the great States 
should seek to engulf their neighbours, and the small States 
be kept alive, if at all, only when they are in the position of 
satellites or of buffers between the great. Nationalism as a 
basis for the State can survive under these conditions only 
in its perverted imperialist form — that is, by expressing the 
will of the great nation, not to self-determination, but to 
imperial rule over its weaker neighbours. 

Parallel to this military process of annihilation of the real 
political independence of the smaller nations is the economic 
process which makes them unable to pursue independent 
policies of their own in the sphere of trade and production. 
Dependent on their greater neighbours both for markets and 
for most forms of capital equipment and many kinds of 
essential consumers’ goods, compelled to link their financial 
systems to one or another of the world’s major currencies, 
and driven to render their domestic apparatus of production 
subservient to the needs of one or more of the major con- 
suming countries, they can retain no real economic inde- 
pendence, though they can still to some extent balance 
themselves between the conflicting claims of the great 
States. In their economic dealings with these great States, 
the smaller States are almost always at a cjjsadvantage ; for 
usually the great States have alternative sources of supply, 
whereas the small ones have no alternative markets. Even 
when a small State is in a monopolistic position as a supplier 
of particular goods, this only renders it more an object of 
desire to its greater neighbours, and, though it may enable 
it for a time to drive harder bargains, makes its independence 
more precarious. 

Most unhappily placed of all are the peasant countries, 
which cannot afford to industrialize themselves, even if jthey 
possess the requisite raw materials for developed production, 


Essays in Social Theory 

but must depend for their supplies of industrial goods on the 
regular sale abroad of their basic agricultural products. For 
the world’s agricultural markets are not only narrowed by 
protective policies designed to increase domestic output of 
foodstuffs and to lessen the internal differences between 
rural and urban standards of living, but are also for the 
most part so highly competitive that the peasant exporters 
are at a serious disadvantage, and can be compelled by a 
ruthless and stronger neighbour to make 'their exchanges on 
very unfavourable terms. It is notorious that the Nazis, in 
their dealings with these countries, exploited their bargain- 
ing advantages with very great success. They compelled 
the peasant countries to take in exchange for their food 
exports not what they wanted, but what the Nazis were 
ready to supply. It is true that, even so, the peasants may 
have profited, in the sense that if the Germans had not 
bought their produce it would have remained unsold. But 
this does not alter the fact that the great State — Germany -- 
was able systematically to exploit the smaller States for its 
own economic advantage. 

It would be possible to enlarge at almost any length on 
the absurdities of the European frontiers of 1919 from the 
standpoint of economic convenience and well-being. But 
this has been done so often that it seems unnecessary to do 
it yet again. It is often suggested that these absurdities were 
caused by the folly of the statesmen of 1919 in refusing to 
give sufficient weight to the economic factors. But in truth 
the source of th$ trouble went much deeper. It was utterly 
beyond the bounds of possibility so to draw the frontiers 
of Europe that each ‘ nation ’ should constitute a separate, 
independent State and at the same time to preserve the 
essential units of economic co-operation. No doubt, this 
would not have mattered if the Nation States had been 
prepared to treat their independence as purely ‘ political \ 
and to refrain from putting any barriers in the way of free 
intercourse — including not only the exchange of goods, but 
in Edition free movement of capital, freedom of migration, 
and international co-ordination of transport and finance. 


The Claims of Nationality 

But it was plainly out of the question that this could happen. 
Statehood was taken by the rulers of each State as including 
the right to pursue an independent economic policy ; and, 
though it was in practice impossible for the small States 
to be economically independent of the great, this limitation 
on their powers made them only the more determined to 
practise economic independence at one another’s expense. 

Even if the League of Nations had completely fulfilled the 
promise of its constitution, this would not have funda- 
mentally altered the position. For the League was, in its 
very conception, a League of independent Nation States, 
within which certain privileges were conferred of necessity 
on the Great Powers, but in economic matters each State, 
large or small, retained the fullest nominal independence. 
It was doubtless intended, by using the power of the great 
national banks to promote a general return to the gold 
standard, to pin down all the League States to the observance 
of certain traditional rules of economic behaviour — especi- 
ally to deflation at the call of the great banks (‘ When 
Father says Deflate, we all deflate ’). But this in practice 
made matters worse ; for when observance of the 4 gold 
standard rules ’ imposed intolerable strains on the dislocated 
economies of one country after another, the inevitable out- 
come was a resort to extreme nationalist financial policies 
as the only way of checking the dissolution of the national 
economy and preventing the outbreak of revolutions of 

Pre-war Europe was, in effect, an ccono«nic monstrosity, 
fully as absurd, from the economic point of view, as if each 
State within the LJnited States of America were to pursue 
a policy of complete economic independence, w r ith tariff 
walls against the other States, quotas on imports, control 
over 4 foreign ’ payments to other States, and a separate 
currency system of its own. So much was this the case that, 
from the purely economic point of view, it was quite arguable 
that it would have been better to let Hitler conquer all 
Europe short of the Soviet LTnion, and thereafter exploit it 
ruthlessly in th * Nazi interest, than to go back to the pre-war 

Essays in Social Theory 

order of independent Nation States with frontiers drawn 
so as to cut right across the natural units of production and 
exchange. This was part of the reason why there was in the 
Nation States which the Nazis overran no general repudia- 
tion of the Nazis’ ‘ new economic order If the defeat of 
Germany were to mean a return to pre-war conditions, why 
should the peasants of Rumania or Yugoslavia have desired 
it ? Might not any sort of European economic unification 
have been, from their point of view as poor producers, better 
than none ? 

The conclusion is that it would have been sheer disaster 
if the victors at the end of the .second World War had 
succeeded in restoring anything at all resembling the pre- 
war system of separate and independent Nation States. But 
it will be no less a disaster if the economic unification which 
is imperatively needed in Europe is brought about in either 
East or West at the cost of flouting the spirit of nationality. 
For it is not true, even in the long run, that the economic 
forces are bound to prevail over the national spirit to the 
extent of making men content to live in a far-flung supra- 
national State which denies their several national aspirations. 
The economic forces may be strong enough to compel them 
to live in such a State, and they may be materially better off 
for doing so. But that does not mean that they will live in 
it happily, or contentedly, or at peace. 

Economic factors have been considered at some length 
in the foregoing paragraphs, almost to the exclusion of other 
factors which aue of no less importance in determining the 
future. It is easy enough to make out a clear case showing 
the importance, on economic grounds, of achieving supra- 
national unity in Europe, and the sheer necessity of achieving 
it if backward peoples are to be lifted out of primary poverty 
or advanced peoples to be rescued from insecurity and un- 
employment because of the poverty of the markets in which 
they seek to sell their goods. All this is easy enough ; but it 
does not answer the vital question ‘ Will men do it ? ’ Will 
mer be able so to overcome their nationalist exclusiveness as 
positively to struggle to bring about a wideriunity ; or will 


The Claims of Nationality 

they, on the contrary, remain so determinedly exclusive and 
hostile to ‘ foreign rule ’ that they will sooner submit to 
foreign force and be conquered by their more powerful 
neighbours than join hands voluntarily in a supra-national 
order designed both to prevent war and to end economic in- 
security ? In other words, are men so blindly nationalistic 
that only a Hitler or some alternative Juggernaut can com- 
bine them over a wide enough area to conform to the needs 
of modern technique ? 

It is possible that men are ‘ pig-headed ’ to this degree. 
But I am loth to credit the existence of so much folly and 
so little wisdom as this^ conclusion implies. I do believe 
it possible to get the peoples, under Socialist leadership, to 
work for supra-national unity. But I am sure they will not 
do this unless the supra-national order is so designed as to 
make ample provision for the satisfaction of real national 

What are the claims of nationality, when one has dis- 
entangled from them claims which rest on the identification 
of its essence with the achievement of complete political 
independence for a national State ? In the first place, any 
group which feels itself to be a nation wants the fullest 
freedom to use its own language — the language that comes 
natural to it and embodies an important part of its cultural 
tradition. It wants this language to be employed in official 
as well as in private affairs. It wants its laws to be written 
and interpreted in this language : it wants this language to 
be spoken in its courts, police stations, ai*d administrative 
offices. It wants the teaching of this language to be basic in 
its schools, and the teaching of other subjects to be carried 
on in this language. It wants newspapers to be published, 
books written, dramas performed, in this language. In other 
words, it wants its traditional tongue to be unmistakably the 
language of the country. Nationalist movements among 
subject peoples may go beyond this, and seek to boycott 
altogether what they regard as the language of their con- 
querors ; but I am not aware that any self-governing nation 
objects to thq teaching or use of languages other than its 


Essays in Social Theory 

own, provided the primacy of its own language is admitted 
and practically assured. 

Secondly, in close connection with these linguistic aspira- 
tions, reasonable nationalists want their schools to be places 
where the young are taught to understand and value the 
national history and traditions, and to master the national 
values and ideas of living. They warn national Universities 
to continue these processes, and cultural institutions of every 
sort to be imbued with a sense of national aspiration and 
achievement. They want those arts in which there is a 
tradition of national excellence to be especially cultivated : 
and they want poets, painters, musicians, sculptors, and 
architects alike to celebrate the peculiar virtues of the 
national spirit. Of course, this purely cultural side of 
nationalism is much stronger in some cases than in others. 
But it is nearly always present in some degree — usually 
with a certain archaeological flavour when nationalists are 
endeavouring to revive a submerged or weakened nationalism 
by appeals to the past. 

Thirdly, nationalists commonly claim the right to follow 
the traditional religion of their nation. This is a much less 
definable claim than those discussed already ; for it may 
range from a mere demand for freedom of worship and 
religious organization to a claim for the exclusive practice 
of the national religion and its secure establishment by the 
State as the sole religion of the people. Some nationalists 
will be content with freedom of worship, provided that it 
carries with it the right to organize a national Church with 
native priests and prelates and a liturgy in the national 
language. Some, on the other hand, will assert that a 
people cannot be firmly bound together without full com- 
munity of religious observance, and that no one who is not 
in communion with the national Church can truly share 
in the common traditions of the people. Moreover, some 
religions are by profession tolerant, and others intolerant ; 
and this makes a great difference to nationalist claims on 
the ; r behalf. Some Churches are purely national, whereas 
others are national sections of international Churches, such 


The Claims of Nationality 

as the Catholic. Some Churches are much more Erastian 
in doctrine than others ; and this affects the nature of their 
relations to nationalist politicians. Whereas in the case of 
language and lay culture most nationalist movements make 
closely similar claims, in the case of religion there are endless 
varieties of demand. 

Now, there seems to be no good reason why the linguistic 
and cultural claims of nationalism should not be fully 
reconcilable with the needs of the supra-national State, 
wherever such a State is based, not on imperialism, but on 
the will to deal fairly by all the citizens. But in the case of 
religion other important considerations arise. The claim 
that a nation must, if it is to preserve and get the full value 
of its national traditions, profess collectively a uniform 
national religion is inconsistent with the right of individual 
and group self - expression which all democratic state 
machinery ought to safeguard and to encourage. These 
rights are, indeed, at variance with any claim that a par- 
ticular set of religious observances ought to be established 
by law, or that the professors of a particular set of beliefs 
ought to enjoy any special privileges or preferences in the 
educational system or in any other part of the machinery 
of government and administration. Churches and Govern- 
ments ought to be entirely separate : there ought to be no 
confounding of the persons of ecclesiastical and secular 
jurisdiction. The Elizabethan Act of Uniformity, as an 
attempt to build up a broad Church to which the great 
majority of the people could be induced to subscribe, 
may have been justifiable as a necessary compromise. The 
thoroughgoing Erastianism of Rousseau's attempt to formu- 
late the idea of a State Church, based on the broadest sort 
of Deism, may have been a natural element in the first 
foundation of the theory of democratic sovereignty. But 
neither the one nor the other is consistent with a developed 
conception of the requirements of a democratic society. It is 
fundamental to the very idea of such a society that, so far 
from enforcing uniformity or, on a more advanced piane, 
recognizing if particular ‘ establishment ’ while extending 


Essays in Social Theory 

‘ toleration * to ‘ dissenters ’, it should value the presence in 
its midst of widely different interpretations of man’s spiritual 

It is, however, no less true that there must be limits to this 
recognition of the value of differences. These limits are set 
by the moral notions which are at the root of the common 
civilization which holds the nation together. A Church 
which advocated cannibalism as a religious rite would 
clearly exclude itself from recognition in ’any advanced or 
democratic society. But so, I hold, does any Church which 
denies, as part of its basic doctrine, the right of men to 
worship God in their own way, or not to worship God at all, 
or which claims that the State ought to prohibit to all 
citizens practices which it condemns on the score of its 
religious belief. I am not, of course, denying the right of, 
say, Catholics to condemn divorce or birth control, or to do 
their best to get their views adopted by the societies in which 
they live. But I am condemning any claim that the Catholic, 
or any other, Church ought to be given power itself to en- 
force such doctrines, or to act in any matter as the agent 
for their enforcement. A Catholic has as much right as 
anyone else to express any view he pleases, and to endeavour 
to persuade others to accept his view. But no religious 
body has any right to exercise any coercive power over 
persons who do not belong to it, or to be entrusted by the 
State with any coercive authority. 

In practice it may be necessary, in the existing state of 
opinion, to admh certain limited compromises. Where the 
great majority of a nation belong to a particular Church, 
it may be unavoidable to allow that Church some part in 
the public ceremonials of the people — in the celebration of 
national festivals, for example. But it would be altogether a 
mistake to stretch the compromise to the point of allowing 
any national Church to insist on membership as a qualifica- 
tion for any office, for admission to any University or other 
public institution, or for any right of citizenship ; and it 
wou!d be wholly indefensible to endow any such Church 
with any control over public education, or with any power 


The Claims of Nationality 

at all over any persons not voluntarily belonging to it. 

The reason for this is that freedom of opinion, and the 
equal right to hold all opinions not directly excluded by the 
basic conditions of the civilization, rank among the absolute 
requirements of real democracy. This freedom is accordingly 
a right which needs to be fully safeguarded by the charter of 
the supra-national authority, and one which no national 
group can legitimately invade. Subject to this, each national 
group should have the right, as part of its cultural auto- 
nomy, to develop its religious institutions in its own way, 
recognizing such varieties of religious belief, national or 
international, as any of its citizens may profess, and allow- 
ing the adherents of any Church to link its worship as they 
please either to the culture of the nation, or to the develop- 
ing wider culture that transcends national frontiers. 

This freedom is essential to the sense of cultural auto- 
nomy. But there are other aspects of nationality, besides 
those which I have discussed so far, which must be safe- 
guarded if the peoples are to live at ease within the frame- 
work of a supra-national society. Not least among them is 
the right to have their affairs administered in their own 
language, by public officers who speak that language as 
natives and have as p? f of their mental make-up the tradi- 
tions of the nation. It would no doubt greatly simplify the 
unification of Europe if all Europeans spoke the same 
language — - spoke it, I mean, as their native language and 
not merely as a foreign language learnt for convenience of 
intercourse. It would be a considerable convenience if all 
Europeans — or indeed all peoples throughout the world — 
had a common second language in addition to their own, and 
could thus communicate one with another without inter- 
preters in all the simpler affairs of life. But language is not 
only a means of matter-of-fact communication, but also an 
invaluable instrument of thought and a rich repository of 
sentiment ; and the full understanding of one another’s 
mind* is something \ery different from the ability to make 
and answer inquiries about the times of trains, or ev^i to 
exchange spefialized technical information without error. 

Essays in Social Theory 

Oratory, as well as literature, depends on the fine apprecia- 
tion of language, to which few can attain for any tongue save 
that which is native to them. Each nation's language is a 
storehouse of the thoughts and emotions of many generations 
of men ; and no people can afford to discard its own lan- 
guage in its public affairs without heavy loss of social content 
and tradition. 

It is therefore futile to propose the deliberate adoption 
of any one language, whether it be an existing national 
language or one invented or adapted for the purpose (c.g. 
Esperanto or Basic English), as the official language of 
public affairs throughout the territories of a supra-national 
State. There is much to be said for the universal acquisition, 
for purposes of factual convenience, of a second language. 
But, whether this is done or not, the national languages 
must remain, not only as instruments of literature, but also 
as the current languages of administration in the various 
national areas. Conceivably, in course of generations, a 
second language, taught throughout the supra-national area, 
could be used for many purposes for which it could not be 
used to-day. But it could not become the universal language 
of public affairs until men had learnt, over the entire area, 
to think instinctively in it, or until it had itself developed, as 
a result of such thinking, into a real supra-national language 
expressing the thoughts and sentiments and traditions of 
closely unified peoples. 

Nor is the question one of language only. Local affairs 
must be administered mainly by men and women who share 
the cultural traditions and outlook of the men and women 
whose lives are affected by their doings. A national group 
will not have the sense of collective freedom if a large pro- 
portion of those who hold public offices in its midst are 
foreigners — even though these foreigners may speak their 
second language exceedingly well. They want to be governed 
by persons of their own sort in all matters which closely and 
directly affect their individual lives and involve personal 
contacts between the administrator and the citizen. 

These are, I believe, the essential non-eoonomic condi- 


The Claims of Nationality 

tions of national contentment under supra-national co- 
ordination. They involve, especially, national control of 
schools, courts of law, institutions of social service, cultural 
institutions, and of the entire apparatus of local and regional 
government. Moreover, in the economic field, though 
certain key services must be actually administered over the 
whole of the supra-national area, it is of vital importance to 
avoid in the great majority of services any centralization 
of actual management. Co-ordination of plans does not 
involve centralized administration ; and spontaneity and 
democratic initiative cannot be secured where centraliza- 
tion is allowed to proceed beyond what is imperatively 
required by considerations of technique. The small unit is 
valuable in itself, as a liberating influence upon the human 
spirit ; and the vaster the scale of production and distribu- 
tion that is enforced on men by the advances of applied 
science, the more important it becomes to miss no oppor- 
tunity of breaking up administration into manageable units, 
in which the individual can hope to exert a significant 

I believe that in the foregoing pages I have set down the 
real requirements of nationality as a basic psychological 
force. But the case as T have stated it is of course very far 
from meeting the claims of nationalist politicians, or of 
political nationalism as a whole. The nationalist politicians 
want national politics to be important in the eyes of the 
people : they want an abundance of high offices for them- 
selves and their friends, and they want pojver. They have 
convinced themselves, with much truth as long as a capitalist 
social order is taken for granted, that the true national values 
can be maintained only if they are protected by a fully 
independent Nation State, with its own entire sovereignty 
in law-making as well as in internal administration, its 
own show of force (even if the reality is impossible), and 
its entiie freedom from any supra-national interference with 
its political system, its internal economic affairs, and its 
structure of class-relationships. They aim at persuading 
their nationalist followers that the spirit of nationality can 


Essays in Social Theory 

be conserved and expressed only by the achievement and 
maintenance of complete national sovereignty. 

But is this what their followers really want ? The poli- 
ticians have a natural impulse to want it, because it increases 
their sense of importance and their real power if they are 
small men. A big man may find satisfaction in working 
co-operatively within the greater, supia-national unity : a 
small man will want to be boss over an area small enough for 
him to manage. Better to reign in ‘ Serbonia ’ than serve in 
Europe ! For the peoples, on the other hand, there is no 
similar prospect of self-aggrandizement in the small national 
unit. Even the local ‘ boss ’ is not less, but rather more, a 
boss if his local organization forms part of a supra-national 
organization than if it is related merely to a national unit. 
And, if this is true of local leaders, it is true much more of 
the great mass of the people. 

Why, then, are nationalist leaders able to bamboozle so 
many followers into a belief that the successful expression 
of the national spirit requires an independent national 
Sovereign State ? They can do this, because up to the 
present it has been so largely true. Ireland could never have 
achieved full cultural freedom (which is none the less freedom 
for having been abused in a number of ways) without 
achieving first, not merely Home Rule, but in effect inde- 
pendent sovereignty. The same is true of Poland, of Czecho- 
slovakia, of Finland — indeed, of all the Nation States in 
Europe which have succeeded in freeing themselves from 
political subjection to their larger neighbours. Historically, 
it is true that, in Western civilization generally, national 
rights of self-development and expression could be won only 
by winning first complete emancipation from foreign rule. 

This has set up very powerful psychological forces which 
drive nationalists to an assertion of the necessity of lull 
political independence. But it does not follow that the one 
truly of necessity involves the other. Independence of a 
domineering conqueror intent on imposing his national 
cultyre upon his subject peoples is one thing — independ- 
ence of a supra-national authority based or. the idea of 


The Claims of Nationality 

equal co-operation between many national cultures is quite 
another. If the supra-national authority is itself neither 
nationalist nor nationalist-imperialist, but international in 
spirit and structure, there is no valid reason why the nation- 
alities included within its scope should not find the fullest 
opportunity for national self-expression without either 
sovereign independence or exclusive national control in the 
economic field. 



Reform in the Civil Service 1 

* ttacking Civil Servants has long been a popular 
ZA pastime ; and I have no wish to find myself a play- 
1 \. mate in this activity with Sir Ernest Bonn’s Indi- 
vidualist League or with the Daily Mail. So let me say at 
the outset that I believe our permanent Civil Servants, at 
all levels from the highest to the lowest, to be pretty com- 
petent, honest and conscientious, and not at all sadistically 
disposed. I do not believe that they take a fiendish pleasure 
in devising forms for the rest of us to fill up ; I do not believe 
they are habitual slackers ; and I do not believe in the least 
that they are wicked bureaucrats, fanatically avid of power. 
1 have had a fair amount to do with them, over a good number 
of years ; and I must admit that, in their collective capacity, 
I do not love them. But emphatically these are not the 
charges which I think can be preferred against them with any 
substantial element of truth. 

My charges are quite different, and are largely directed 
against the system, rather than against the individuals who 
are its victims. I think that the average highly-placed 
Civil Servant has too little experience of being anything 
except a Civil Servant and too little knowledge of people 
outside the narrow group with which he ordinarily mixes in 
social affairs. I think he is caught too young, and tamed too 
thoroughly in the practice of a particular routine. I think he 
enjoys too much security, under conditions which tend to 
make him erect into an ideal the negative virtue of never 
making a mistake. I think he is very apt to be the kind of 
man who puts a high value on mere security, and lacks all 
instinct for adventure. I think he suffers under a depart- 


Reform in the Civil Service 

mental system of organization which breaks up responsibility 
into too small pieces, and tends to make a virtue of avoiding 
it altogether. I think he shares with many other pro- 
fessionals the habit of clannishness and of feeling himself 
one of a corpoiate group perpetually on its defence against 
the rest of the world. And I think he exists under a system 
of grading and promotion and of Treasury supervision which 
is destructive of initiative for the majority of those subjected 
to it, and often wtongly selective in those whom it raises to 
the highest positions. 

These are criticisms of the higher Civil Service as it 
exists in time of peace, and in relation to its normal duties. 
In wartime, of course, the Civil Service is greatly diluted by 
‘ temporaries 9 of various types, from ‘ dollar a year ’ men 
seconded from trades and industries as controllers of this or 
that, or as technical advisers to controllers, to typists who 
fall a long way below the normal civil service standards of 
accuracy. Among these ‘ temporaries ’ are not a few mem- 
bers of my own profession — the ‘ dons ’ — and 1 should 
not be surprised if my fellow-academics were found to have 
behaved quite as bureaucratically as the ‘ regulars and 
indeed to have displayed many of the same mtfntal char- 
acteristics. For dons, like Civil Servants of the higher 
grades, are recruited largely from among cleverish, un- 
adventurous persons who like a quiet life, set a high value 
on security, and regard the rest of humanity as, in Carlyle's 
famous phrase referring to the electorate, 1 mostly fools \ 

It is not, however, my purpose to devote this essay to a 
discussion of the peculiarities of the Civil Service in wartime. 
What I am setting out to consider is the sort of Civil Service 
we want in times of peace, and in that connection what were 
the merits and defects of the Civil Service which we actually 
had up to 1919. If references to war conditions come into 
this study, they will be only incidental : my main concern 
is with the permanent — in technical phrase the ‘ estab- 
lished ’ — Civil Sen ic^. 

It is a great thing, which we take nowadays so much 
for granted ?s often to forget how great it is, that this 


Essays in Social Theory 

established Civil Service of ours is, for all practical purposes, 
incorruptible. Not merely do its members not take bribes : 
they are for the most part continuously on their guard 
against much more subtle and insidious forms of corruption. 
If someone asks them out to dinner, they are very ready to 
ask themselves whether it is really for the sake of their 
beaux yeux , or from some ulterior motive ; and they are 
even, perhaps, a little apt to be unduly suspicious of that 
part of the world which does not follow their own high 
calling. Or perhaps they are not unduly suspicious ; for 
the ways of what are called 4 contact men * are dark, and the 
guardians of the public virtue need to be careful not to be 
beguiled. At all events, dishonesty among Civil Servants is 
a very rare event ; and, if I need say no more in this essay 
about the morals of the Civil Service, it is because the moral 
qualities of its members, in their official behaviour, shine 
like good deeds in a naughty world. 

They are clever too, as well as honest, these servants of 
the public. In every grade, the standards required of new 
entrants are high, in point of intellectual attainments, in 
comparison with what is called for in most walks in life. 
When they go wrong, it is not because they are mutton- 
heads, or unable to appreciate even subtle intellectual points, 
but for some quite different reason. 

Is it, then, that there is nothing amiss with our Civil 
Servants, and that, if many of us do not love them, that is 
only because it is in the nature of their calling not to be 
loved ? It is thejr mission to ensure that private persons, in 
their dealings with the State, shall do, not as they would do, 
but as they would be done by, and so that, in Kant's phrase, 
whatsoever they do shall be in accordance with ‘ law uni- 
versal \ They have to go by rule, because they must show 
no favour to one man as against another ; and the rule, when 
we find it applied to our own case, often seems hard and 
inhuman, and quite often lacking in common sense. The 
Civil Servant is essentially an applier of general rules to 
partjcular cases ; and it is in the nature of his duty that he 
has no liberty to make exceptions. He is a trustee, and not a 


Reform in the Civil Service 

dispenser of charity : an interpreter of laws, and not their 
maker : a servant of servants — for Minister means servant 
— and not a master, at any rate in the theory of the Con- 
stitution : a regulator, and not an original source, of power. 
If this is theory, and in practice the Civil Servant often 
becomes the master of the Minister he is supposed to serve, 
and even of the public that Minister is supposed to serve, 
how can he help it ? He is the expert, who knows all the 
ropes ; and what*he knows best of all is that Ministers are 
but amateurs, who blunder sadly if he does not continually 
save them from themselves. 

The relations between Ministers and Civil Servants are, 
indeed, at the very heart of the problem we are setting out 
to discuss. Broadly speaking, a Government Department 
has two distinct functions to fulfil. It has to see to the 
practical and orderly administration of an existing body of 
law, and of rules and regulations based on law and custom ; 
and it has to play its part in the making of new laws or 
the amendment of existing rules and practices. Inevitably 
Ministers are much more concerned with the second than 
with the first of these functions. They may regard them- 
selves as endowed with a mission to effect changes in policy, 
and yet be fully awan of their shortcomings as arbiters of 
administrative methods. The typical Minister does not 
greatly interfere with the working of those parts of his 
department’s duties which are not immediately affected 
either by popular controversy or by proposals for legislative 
change. He leaves the running of such a things mainly to 
the permanent secretary and his subordinates, and attends 
principally to those matters about which he is likely to be 
questioned in Parliament or to have to take charge of a Bill. 
The habit of shifting Ministers frequently from one office 
to another obviously makes for leaving the high Civil 
Servants largely free to run the departmental machine as 
they please, subject to the knowledge that the Minister will 
be bound to interfere if their proceedings give rise to public 
protest or offend any powerful interest. It is very ynuch 
the concern rtf most officials to avoid having the Minister’s 


Essays in Social Theory 

attention drawn to matters which they deem him, in most 
cases, ill-qualified to understand. An incautious reply by a 
Minister to a questioner in Parliament may upset their best- 
laid plans and cause an upheaval in their department ; and 
a Minister, who knows the rules much less well than they 
do, is exceedingly apt, in judging the particular case on its 
merits, to overlook the endless repercussions of what may 
seem to be an obviously just or sensible judgement. They 
have to protect him against his own humane impulses and 
his wish to please, and in doing so have to protect themselves 
against administrative complications which might land every- 
body in a mess. 

There is no denying the force of the Civil Servant’s case 
when he argues that it is dangerous to give the Minister his 
head. Yet this attitude of the custodian of orderly adminis- 
tration passes easily into the perversion in which it becomes 
sheer obstruction to change. What is comes, because of the 
complications involved in changing it, to be identified with 
what ought to be ; and this happens the more easily because 
of the unchanging rhythm of the high-up Civil Servant’s 
everyday life. From home to office, from office to club, 
where he hob-nobs largely with other Civil Servants of his 
own standing, from club back to office, and from office to 
home, his life follows, in times of peace, a singularly in- 
variable course. His job itself is not monotonous, in the 
sense in which monotony is the lot of the routine worker 
from day to day ; but its rhythm is constant, even if there 
is variety in the f things which he has to do. It would be 
remarkable if it did not make him, unless he happens to have 
strong anarchistic instincts, conservative and averse from 
change, more apt to envisage difficulties than opportunities, 
and disposed to let well alone and to define ‘ well ’ as mean- 
ing that which least disturbs the evenness of his days. ’That 
his work is interesting does not militate against this con- 
servatism but may even exaggerate it ; for he is not dis- 
contented with what he has to do, and has therefore no inner 
urge to get it altered. He has chosen his career with his eyes 
open, knowing its limitations as well as its privileges ; and 


Reform in the Civil Service 

he is aware that he is most likely to be allowed to get on with 
his job in his own way if he does nothing that will cause him 
to be interfered with. Consequently, he fears, or even 
resents, a parliamentary question which touches upon his 
duties ; and in priming his Minister with the required 
answer, or with the arguments to be used in debate, he is 
concerned mainly to afford no opening for further question- 
ing, and to get away with giving as little information as will 
serve to keep thfe questioner quiet, and give the press no 
handle for comment that may set the public mind astir. 

This kind of Civil Service is a product of the reforming 
zeal of the nineteenth century. It superseded a service very 
differently constituted, in which sinecurists held many of the 
most lucrative posts, and the more laborious minor offices 
were filled largely by favouritism and nomination of the 
dependants of the great. Competitive examination was the 
new broom which swept the incompetents away, and en- 
forced a high intellectual standard ; and the moral standard 
rose simultaneously with the intellectual, under the stern 
governance of the preceptors of retrenchment and reform. 
When this reformation was effected, the job of the Civil 
Service was almosc exclusively regulative, rather than ad- 
ministrative : it was concerned much more with seeing that 
certain things were not done than with doing things in any 
positive sense. Apart from the Post Office, which long 
remained anomalous in its methods, it had no big service to 
manage save that of tax-collection ; and it came little into 
contact with the general run of men. Assiduousness and 
integrity were the qualities chiefly demanded of it : human 
sympathy was not much in request, or business capacity, or 
imagination, or even initiative in any of its more creative 
forms. There were men in it who did nevertheless display 
these qualities — for example, in the development of the 
public health services or in the field of education. But even 
in these fields of activity there was but limited scope for the 
creative powers. Th^ local authorities were the responsible 
executants of the policies prescribed or permitted by law : 
the Civil Servant’s function was rather that of ensuring that 


Essays in Social Theory 

they should not exceed their powers than that of spurring 
them on to new endeavours. The overriding assumption 
was that government ought to interfere as little as possible, 
save to prevent abuse : hostility to centralization was ex- 
ceedingly strong, and the belief in laissez-faire not indeed 
unchallenged but deep and pervasive throughout the in- 
fluential part of society. 

Since those days conditions have changed greatly in more 
than one respect. For one thing, the so # cial gulf between 
Ministers and Civil Servants has narrowed a great deal. 
Politicians have ceased to be mainly aristocrats ; and 
Ministers, even Conservative Ministers, arc nowadays a very 
mixed lot. As against this, the spread of secondary educa- 
tion has also altered the social complexion of the higher 
Civil Service ; but the general effect has been to put Ministers 
and their departmental officials much more on a personal 
equality than they used to be, and therewith to give the 
greater expert knowledge of the official a stronger influence 
— the more so because the intricacy of administrative 
detail has immensely increased. This change in personal 
relations goes with a vast increase in the size of departmental 
staffs and in the range of duties falling within the scope of 
each department. The Civil Service has much more to do ; 
and much more of its work is directly administrative and 
not merely supervisory. This, of course, applies very un- 
evenly between departments ; and, over all, the Service still 
regulates much more than it administers. But there have 
grown up huge f departments directly managing services 
which bring their officials into close and constant contact 
with the general public. The Ministry of Labour, with its 
Employment Exchanges and Training Centres, is one out- 
standing example ; and the Ministry of National Insurance 
is another. But, apart from these, the general run of depart- 
ments have many more points of contact with the public 
than they used to have. The Board of Trade is in much 
closer contact with business men over matters of industrial 
and commercial policy ; the Ministry of Education is in much 
closer touch with the schools, including thosiu outside the 


Reform in the Civil Service 

State system ; the Ministry of Agriculture is in daily contact 
with farmers and dealers in farm produce ; the Ministry of 
Health is in much closer relations than it used to be, not 
only with local authorities, but also with doctors, nurses, 
private builders, insurance companies, hospitals, clinics, and 
all manner of social service agencies. The new Ministry 
of Town and Country Planning furnishes yet another 
example. In a great many fields there has grown up a 
new, and still rapidly developing, relationship between statu- 
tory and non-statutory agencies — an uneasy partnership in 
which the functions of the partners are subject to continuous 
and subtle alteration, both by law and in the gradual modifi- 
cations of practice outside the law. Consultation with out- 
side agencies has become a vital part of the technique of 
legislation and administration alike ; and the wider the 
State’s functions become, the more needful is it for this 
partnership of public and private agencies to be developed. 

One thing I feel sure of is that under these conditions it 
would be of advantage to have a regular practice of inter- 
change between the Civil Service and the parallel service 
of local government. One occasionally meets even now 
officials who have had experience in both these fields ; and 
it would be of advantage if there were many more of them. 
Moreover, the interchange ought to take place not only 
among senior officials but also, and above all, among juniors 
in the course of getting their basis of experience. I am aw r are 
that there are practical administrative difficulties in the way 
of this, as there are in the way of that unification of conditions 
in the local government service which is on its own account 
greatly to be desired. But these difficulties — in relation to 
pension rights, and so on — could be easily overcome if 
there were any will to deal with them ; and I am sure the 
Whitehall official would be in many cases a better man if he 
had enjoyed some first-hand experience of the workings of 
local government, and the local official a better man if he 
had served for a time under the conditions of Whitehall. 

Greater mobility at all stages, but especially before the 
Civil Servant has settled down in mind and habit, is, I am 


Essays in Social Theory 

sure, highly desirable, both from one central department to 
another and between central and local government. This 
could be brought about within the existing framework of the 
service without any fundamental change. At the same time, 
a great deal more should be done to break down the rigidity 
of caste divisions inside the service, especially between those 
who enter it at different ages and with different educational 
backgrounds. It ought to be made much easier for those 
who enter as boys or girls, if they show promise, to rise to 
the highest positions ; and these positions ought not, as they 
largely are to-day, to be reserved for university and public 
school men. In order to make this easier, there should be 
a provision on a generous scale of bursaries or fellowships, 
with the aid of which Civil Servants whose early education 
had been cut short could be sent for a year or even for 
several years to a University equipped to receive them, 
for the purpose of improving their cultural and professional 
qualifications. I should much prefer this to the creation of 
an isolated Civil Service Staff College, which is now being 
advocated in certain quarters. The Civil Servant needs not 
more but less isolation from the rest of mankind, and will 
find better and wider opportunities in a University which 
handles students of all sorts than in a specialized institution 
— provided only that the University takes proper pains to 
equip itself for giving him what he needs. In addition to 
such longer full-time courses, there ought to be an abundant 
provision of shorter ‘ refresher ’ courses of all sorts and kinds, 
to meet the nefds of men and women of different ages, 
interests and capacities and to keep the Civil Servant up to 
date with the best current thought and experience in fields 
related to his professional work. 

There are, however, much wider questions than these to 
which we must give our consideration. Modern govern- 
ment is branching out not only on the social and adminis- 
trative sides, with which I have been dealing so far, but also 
on the economic and business side. It is now pretty generally 
agreed that when the State takes over from private enterprise 
the running of any industry or economic service the best 


Reform in the Civil Service 

way of running it is not through a civil service department 
staffed by regular Civil Servants recruited in the ordinary 
way and subject to the rigours of Treasury control, but 
rather through some sort of public board or corporation. 
Such bodies have been set up in quite considerable numbers 
in recent years, with widely varying constitutions and rela- 
tions to the Government and to Parliament. In general, the 
practice has been to regard their staffs, from the top down- 
wards, as being iv>t Civil Servants, but simply employees 
of the particular boards or commissions concerned. No 
attempt has been made to introduce any uniformity of 
grading or salaries or other conditions of service ; and there 
has been no formal seciirity of employment, such as applies 
to the established branches of the Civil Service. 

What this means is that in practice there has been grow- 
ing up, side by side with the recognized Civil Service, a 
second unrecognized body of public servants working under 
substantially different conditions, intentionally made to re- 
semble much more closely the conditions of private enter- 
prise. I think the refusal to work out any common standards 
for the employees of the various corporations has been 
deliberate, and in enect a part of the attempt to keep them 
assimilated as nearly as possible to private forms of business. 
This has been possible as long as there have been only a few 
such bodies, and as long as their establishment has been in 
the hands of governments which hold public operation of 
industries to be the exception and private enterprise the rule. 
But the situation is bound to alter now that socialized control 
had been extended to a considerable numbef of industries and 
services and the State, instead of regarding each socialized 
enterprise as an isolated business, to be managed on the 
assumptions of a capitalist environment, is half-embarked on 
a form of coherent economic planning, such as is necessarily 
involved in any real attempt to follow a national policy aiming 
at full employment. As soon as the State comes to take a 
large hand in the running of the essential industries and to 
pursue any real system of economic planning, the need is 
bound to arise for bringing the several public enterprise 

Essays in Social Theory 

corporations under some sort of co-ordinated public control. 

Two issues will then have to be faced. Some common 
principles will have to be worked out to govern the condi- 
tions of service in this sort of socialized enterprise ; and it 
will have to be decided whether there is to be a sharp 
dichotomy between the industrial servants of the State, who 
run these enterprises on the public oehalf, and the ad- 
ministrative servants, who co-ordinate their running, super- 
vise them on behalf of the responsible Ministers, prepare 
answers to parliamentary questions about them, and advise 
the government as a whole concerning the formulation and 
development of the State’s economic plans. Some such 
dichotomy has existed in the past in the Post Office, where 
a line has been drawn between the Secretary’s department, 
an ordinary branch of the Civil Service, and the departments 
concerned with the actual running of the various sections of 
the Post Office’s enterprise. This division has been, I think, 
unsatisfactory, and to some extent its working has been 
altered as a consequence of the changes introduced after 
the Report of the Bridgeman Committee. At all events, it 
would be a most unfortunate model to adopt for the run- 
ning of other socialized services or for the general work of 
economic planning and co-ordination, either in relation to 
policies for the promotion of full employment or in any 
other connection. 

The greatest danger of all is that, as the State’s control 
over industries and economic services is extended, the co- 
ordinating authority in relation to them may fall permanently 
into the hands of the Treasury. This, I am convinced, 
would be a disaster. The Treasury is, in essence, an 
institution whose business it is to check expenditure and to 
enforce a rigid observance of uniform rules. It is an ex- 
ceedingly conservative department, and better satisfied with 
itself than any body of persons it has ever been my fortune 
to meet. Its members have high qualities of integrity and 
personal intelligence ; but their mental outlook is precisclv 
that which is likeliest to verify all the most gloomy pro- 
phecies of the opponents of nationalization . and public 


Reform in the Civil Service 

control. It would indeed be a miracle if it were not so, 
and if the same group of men were good both at sitting 
on the heads of the spending departments of State and at 
promoting initiative and enterprise in the agencies set up 
for the conduct of productive business. The Treasury’s 
natural bias is against spending money : its natural assump- 
tion is that money spent is money lost — an assumption 
which it carried to a sheerly ridiculous extreme in the 
notorious ' Trea^iry Memorandum ’ of 1919, where it 
argued that public investment could not possibly add to the 
volume of employment because it would inevitably carry 
with it an equivalent decrease in the volume of private 
investment. Not even\he Treasury would put forward so 
absurd a contention nowadays ; but the fact remains that it 
has not, and cannot be expected to have, the mood of the 
adventurous promoter of new enterprise, nor can it be suit- 
able to control, save in a purely negative way, the activities 
of those who have. One does not set an accountant to run a 
business — except as a receiver of a bankrupt concern — 
However much those who are running it may benefit by his 

If the State is to embark upon a wide range of economic 
activities, if it is to take ver the running of more industries 
and services and is to co-ordinate their policies in terms of 
some sort of general economic plan, there will have to be a 
new public instrument for the making of this plan and for 
the exercise of these functions of control ; and this new body 
will have to recruit its members and staff in a way different 
from that of the ordinary Civil Service, ft will need fewer 
‘ Greats ’ men or other University graduates well versed in 
the humanities as the key to knowledge, and many more 
experts in particular fields of economics and technology and 
science ; and above all it will need men of practical experi- 
ence, men who have not spent the whole of their working 
lives at a single office desk, or at a sequence of desks as like 
as two peas, but have worked in various branches of industry 
or commerce, or in applied research. The staff of sych a 
co-ordinating and planning body will need to change con- 


Essays in Social Theory 

siderably as the emphasis changes from one kind of develop- 
ment to another ; and there will need to be much coming 
and going between the central body and the more specialized 
administrations of the particular industries and services 
subject to public operation or control. 

It will, I think, become natural, if this new type of public 
service develops, for men attached to it to be seconded to 
the ordinary civil service departments, just as men from the 
Treasury are seconded now for a different purpose, to work 
in them on jobs for which their special qualifications are 
required. So far from the regular Civil Service supervising 
the industrial and other economic enterprises run under 
public auspices, these enterprises writ be run on autonomous 
lines, through public corporations which will be largely self- 
governing, but will be subject to general policy directives 
transmitted to them through the central planning agency and 
will be staffed on a basis which will involve frequent inter- 
changes both between the corporations and between the 
central planning agency and the corporations for particular 

I do not propose to discuss in detail what the conditions 
of recruitment or employment should be for this new second 
Civil Service which I envisage as developing rapidly as 
economic planning extends its scope. One great question 
that will have to be faced is whether there is to be easy 
interchange between it and the service of profit-inaking 
enterprise. Hitherto, except in time of war, it has been 
deemed necessary to put as many obstacles as possible in the 
way of such interchange, and to tie the Civil Servant down 
to lifelong service largely as a means of diminishing the risks 
of corruption. There have been cases in which men have 
left the Civil Service for high positions in private business ; 
but the penalty — forfeiture of pension rights — has been 
deterrent except in the case of major appointments. On the 
other hand, the new public corporations have, as a matter 
of course, been staffed largely by men taken over from private 
enterprise ; and there has been, as far as I know, no attempt 
to make it difficult for such men to shift back if they so desire. 


Reform in the Civil Service 

I feel sure that this shifting will have to be accepted as a 
normal thing, as the State extends its field of economic 
operations. It will be desirable for men working in the 
public service to have the opportunity of a wide range of 
technical and administrative experience ; and it will be most 
undesirable to pin down the publicly operated services to 
keep for good and all anyone they appoint. It is one of the 
disadvantages of the present civil service system that the 
incompetent, or the square pegs in round holes, can as a 
rule only be ‘ kicked upstairs ’ ; and such a condition of 
things, bad enough in relation to the Civil Service as it is, 
would be quite intolerable if it were applied to the running 
of industries subject to continual and often very rapid 
technical development. The doctrine of the job for life 
cannot be applied to the higher ranges of industry without 
hampering economic progress. There is too much of it 
already in large-scale private enterprise. Either it must be 
made easy to sack the old-fashioned and the incompetent ; 
or, if they are to be kept on, it must be made easy to kick 
them downstairs instead of up. 

In my own view, *Ee development of socialization is likely 
to take the form, not only of transferring certain entire 
industries and services fi n private to public operation, but 
also of part-transference, either of certain key processes or 
establishments within an industry, or by the development 
of what are called ‘ mixed enterprises ’, in which public and 
private capital work together. There are examples of this 
already — the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company # is a well-knowm 
instance — and I think there is likely to be a multiplication 
of cases in which publicly and privately appointed directors 
sit side by side. Marketing Boards are a probable field for 
this type of development ; and it will be necessary to give 
considerable thought to the types of persons whom the 
State is to appoint in such cases, and to the status and powers 
they are to enjoy. I envisage them as coming from the new 
economic planning agency, as being drawn from its specialist 
staff, and as receiving their orders through it in matters of 
general policy while being left free, subject to certain rules 


Essays in Social Theory 

of conduct, to take their own line in day-to-day matters. 

I know it will be argued that it is dangerous thus to mix 
public and private enterprise, or thus to admit the principle 
of interchange between the service of the public and the 
service of private profit. But how else can one envisage the 
advent of a ‘ mixed economy ’ under which some branches 
of industry will be publicly and some privately run and there 
will be all sorts and degrees of state intervention and control 
in the working of private industry ? Haw else, I say, do 
those who envisage this sort of economy expect to get the 
job done ? That it cannot be done by a Civil Service recruited 
as in the past is evident ; and I think it is no less clear that it 
cannot be done merely by takirtg outside experts and 
technicians and business men into the Civil Service, on the 
basis of an entirely one-way traffic. 

Of course, no such problems as I have been discussing 
arise if it can be assumed either that there is to be no con- 
siderable extension of the range of public enterprise, or that, 
even with such an extension, public corporations can continue 
to be set up entirely ad hoc , without any attempt at co- 
ordinating them or establishing any general machinery for 
the planning of economic policy or bringing them under any 
common principles in respect of their conditions of service. 
If, however, there is to be at the least some substantial growth 
of socialization, coupled with effective measures for the 
control of monopoly, and some planning of investment and 
production with a view to full employment — and, speaking 
from a Socialist standpoint, I certainly cannot assume less 
than this — the problems which I have been outlining will 
be bound to arise. 

Indeed, they arise now, in the sense that one of the most 
formidable obstacles to the acceptance of Socialism as an 
objective is, for many men in the professional and business 
classes, the nightmare of civil service control. Making every 
allowance for the temporary reactions set up in men’s minds 
by the orgy of form-filling which was an unavoidable 
accompaniment of war, we must still admit that this feeling 
would be very strong even if there had berm no war to 


Reform in the Civil Service 

exacerbate it, and that ‘ Does Socialism Mean Ihircaucracy ? ’ 
is a constant question from which it is of no use for Socialists 
to attempt to slide away. We can, of course, make the debat- 
ing answer that bureaucracy is no prerogative of the public 
service, and that it is found in equal measure in many large, 
and in some quite small, organizations with which the State 
has little or no concern. I have heard it suggested that 
railway companies, insurance companies, banks, and even 
great industrial concerns have not been immune from it ; 
and I think the most bureaucratic body I ever worked for 
was the University of London. This answer, however, will 
not serve : it is indeed no more than the pot calling the 
kettle black. That thefre are inherent tendencies towards 
bureaucracy in every large organization, public or private, 
is perfectly plain ; but that is a reason, not for lying down 
under it, but for doing all we can to combat it wherever it 
threatens to arise. 

Now, in relation to the existing Civil Service in the 
performance of its traditional tasks — that is to say, quite 
apart from the new duties which are falling upon it in both 
the business and the social service sphere — the charge of 
bureaucracy is centred upon an allegation that the civil service 
system leads to an evas n of responsibility which makes it 
exceedingly difficult for the private citizen to get his affairs 
attended to. Passed to You , Please was the title of a recent 
book made up of a series of variations on this theme. 

I believe it to be the case that the existing civil service 
system does lend itself to this evasion of responsibility, and 
that the key to the solution is to be looked Tor in the curious 
system of filing and minuting which si ill dominates the 
service. I have read many of those curious files of docu- 
ments in which the original papers are accompanied by a 
growing series of largely illegible notes in the handwritings 
of the series of departmental officers under whose scrutiny 
the files have passed — each recipient passing the dossier 
on to someone else, lus immediate next up or next down in 
the hierarchy, in the expectation that some day the flip will 
get into the «hands of somebody who will proceed to take 


Essays in Social Theory 

action upon it. The effect of this system is that, to a great 
extent, action in the Civil Service proceeds in single file, 
instead of by a simultaneous advance. I suppose the system 
was devised as an elaborate check, in order to prevent the 
possibility of self-contradiction by the department through 
different officers acting simultaneously in different ways. 
Some check, I have no doubt, is neeaed ; but it seems to 
me that the file system, as it is ordinarily used, does slow 
matters up very badly, and does make it unduly easy for 
anyone who wishes to evade responsibility to pass it on to 
someone else. I know that this file system is not slavishly 
adhered to, even in peace, and that Civil Servants do ring 
one another up on the telephone without observing the strict 
order of official precedence. But there is a good deal too 
much of this slowly circulating file arrangement ; and I 
think a good many files do in practice go on passing from 
hand to hand so long, without anything being done, that, 
hard as most senior Civil Servants nowadays undoubtedly 
work, the matter in question sometimes settles itself by sheer 
lapse of time before the file has come to rest. 

I am sure, also, that the Civil Servant's attitude is far 
too much dominated by the fear of making a mistake. No 
doubt, mistakes are more serious when capital may be made 
out of them in newspaper or Parliament than they are in 
most private transactions. But the fact has to be recognized 
that nobody can effectively run anything without making 
mistakes, and that it is often more important to do some- 
thing without delay than to get what is done absolutely 
right. The civfi service tradition is all against doing any - 
thing — and still more against letting anyone else do any- 
thing — until one is absolutely sure about it ; and the 
more work there is to be done, the more inhibiting this 
negative standard of perfection becomes. Moreover, under 
the existing system, each department regards itself to a quite 
undue extent as a self-contained unit. It is impossible in 
practice to keep the spheres of the different departments 
altogether separate : issues are continually cropping up with 
which several departments are necessarily concerned. 


Reform in the Civil Service 

Technical training, for example, concerns both the Ministry 
of Education and the Ministry of Labour ; housing affects 
the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Town and Country 
Planning, and the Ministry of Works and Buildings ; water 
supply affects both the Ministry of Health and the Board of 
Trade. It would be easy to multiply instances ; but it is 
unnecessary. My point is that, though heads of departments 
can of course consult together and inter-departmental com- 
mittees be set up, there is very little communication between 
departmental officials lower down the scale. Once again, the 
desire for tidiness and correctness is allowed to override the 
claims of speed and flexibility ; and I am sure the results 
are bad. 

‘ Hidebound by precedent and tradition * is another 
charge that is commonly flung at the Civil Service. Here T 
cannot help sympathizing in some degree with the Civil 
Servant, who, if he were continually settling each case on its 
merits without regard to what had been done before, would 
soon land himself and everybody else in an intolerable mess. 
To a considerable extent, the Civil Servant has to go by 
precedent ; for there are always eyes upon him, and plenty 
of claimants ready to demand that what he has done for one 
of them he must be prep ~ed to do for all. Yet it is, I think, 
true that the Civil Service often carries its devotion to 
precedent too far, and uses it to evade the facing of really 
new problems as they arise. This is of a piece with the 
unadventurous and conservative temperament which per- 
vades its higher ranks. There is no cure for it, except a 
new spirit of creative adventure ; and the stimulation of 
this new spirit is bound to be a task rather for a government 
bent on constructive achievement than for the permanent 
servants of the State. 

Beyond this, it is necessary to say something about the 
relations between Ministers and Civil Servants. The Civil 
Servant is supposed to act anonymously, as the servant and 
adviser of his MinisUa, whose policy he is supposed to be 
carrying into effect. This, however, is bound, as we^have 
seen, to be almost pure fiction in relation to the main body 


Essays in Social Theory 

of departmental administration ; for it is quite beyond the 
powers of short-lived Ministers to master more than a small 
fraction of the work of their departments, and in practice 
most Ministers think they have done well if they understand 
the legislation they have to propose or to defend in Parlia- 
ment and also acquire a reasonable familiarity with any 
questions over which they are likely to be criticized in 
public. Great power is thus thrown into the hands of the 
Permanent Secretary and his immediate* deputies, who in 
effect run the department with little or no interference from 
the Minister except at a few special points. These per- 
manent officials have had hitherto very little contact with 
Parliament, and it has tended to become an ideal for them 
so to run their departments as to attract as little parliamentary 
notice as possible. 

I believe this to be a bad ideal. I think there ought, as 
long as we remain under a parliamentary system, to be a 
group or committee of Members of Parliament in regular 
touch with the affairs of each department, and meeting 
regularly the principal permanent officials. I think these 
officials ought to have regularly to give an account of their 
administrative doings to this group of M.P.s, and to take 
responsibility for what they have done, in the sense of being 
ready to defend it against criticism without taking refuge 
behind their Minister. I think the Minister ought probably 
to preside over some sort of joint committee of M.P.s and 
officials, through whom a regular scrutiny of the department’s 
proceedings could be carried out. 

Finally, a word must be said about the special problems 
of such bodies as the Employment Exchanges and the 
Assistance Board, through which the State deals directly 
with a host of ordinary men and women, including very 
many who are ill-educated, inarticulate, and ill-informed 
about their rights and the correct ways of presenting their 
case. It is of the greatest importance that such bodies as 
these shall be staffed by men and women of strong human 
sympathy and understanding ; for it is very largely from 
personal contacts with these staffs that the ordinary man 


Reform in the Civil Service 

gets his impression of what the State is like to deal with. 
In the past, there has been a good deal of haphazard in the 
methods of recruitment for these and other ‘ contact * 
services, and there have been, as far as I am aware, no 
arrangements at all for formal training or preparation before 
a man is actually on the job. Surely this question will have 
to be taken much more seriously in the future, and there 
will have to be a much greater provision of special courses 
for training in social work not only young people taking up 
these callings at the end of their full-time education but also 
suitable recruits of maturer years who have had outside 
experience in other callings. I am not making any complaint 
against the actual officials of either the Employment Ex- 
changes or the Assistance Board : nor am I making capital 
out of their great difficulties of staffing under war conditions. 
But it surely is true that the Beveridge proposal to convert 
Industrial Insurance into a public service run by a public 
corporation would have been greeted much more en- 
thusiastically than it was had the insured public been on 
friendlier terms with the local officials of the Ministry of 
Labour and the Assistance Board. 

I am in no doubt that this essay will have left many of 
my readers unsatisfied, and some highly critical of what I 
have said. Civil Servants are so often blamed for being 
right that it is no wonder if they get rather touchy ; and 
those who attack Civil Servants out and out are apt to be so 
unreasonable that it is profitless to discuss anything with 
them. My summing up will probably please neither of 
these groups ; but here it is, for what it is worth. 

1. The present civil service system was designed to 
ensure strict integrity and a very high degree of accuracy 
in the management of public affairs. It does secure both 
these things, but at a high cost in speed of action and in 

2. The present civil service system, however appropriate 
for the purposes for which it was designed, is entirely un- 
fitted for the control or operation of productive enterprises 
or economic# services, or for the undertaking of major tasks 


Essays in Social Theory 

of economic planning — e.g. planning for full employment. 

3. It will be impracticable, as the range of public 
economic enterprise is widened, to treat the case of each 
socialized service ad hoc ; and it will become necessary to 
build up a second ‘ Civil Service ’ of a predominantly 
functional character, to undertake the tasks of economic 
co-ordination and control. 

4. The Treasury is entirely unsuitable to act as the con- 
trolling agency for this new functional service, or for the 
economic work of a State which assumes any general 
responsibility for industrial planning and policy ; and it will 
be necessary for the new functional service to develop a 
central co-ordinating agency of its* # own, apart from the 

5. There ought to be much more interchange between 
the existing Civil Service and the various branches of the 
local government service ; and in the new functional service 
there will have to be less security and much more coming 
and going between public employment and employment 
under private, or ‘ mixed forms of enterprise. 

6. In the social branches of the public service, where 
the public servant is brought into daily and intimate contact 
with ordinary men and women, improved methods of recruit- 
ment and training are urgently needed. 

7. Throughout the Civil Service there ought to be 
greatly enlarged provision for promotion of good men from 
grade to grade, and for ‘ post-entry * education through 
bursaries for further study, refresher courses, and the like. 

8. The Civil Service would do well to overhaul its 
business methods, with a view to improving speed of action 
and ease of contact between officials in different departments 
at different levels over matters affecting more than one 

9. Socialists especially would do well to give their pro- 
posals for the reform and development of the public services 
a prominent place in their propaganda, in order to meet 
those .critics who oppose Socialism on the ground that it 
means ‘ bureaucracy ’. 



What I Take for Granted 

[The following pages are taken from the Introduction to The 
Intelligent Marts Guide to the Post-War World , which I pub- 
lished in 1917. I reproduce them here almost without change 
because I want something of the sort to appear in this volume 
and do not know how to write their substance over again better 
— or indeed as well.] 

I T will be known to some of my readers that I have been 
for a long time closely connected both with the Socialist 
movement and with academic life. I have been a 
University teacher, holding Socialist opinions, but pursuing 
teaching and writing, and not ‘ practical politics ’, as my 
professional job. I had never stood for Parliament until I 
consented under pressure to stand for my own University 
in 1915 ; and I was much relieved not to be elected. Nor 
have I ever attempted to become a delegate to the Labour 
Party Conference, or aspired to the position of a leader in 
the world of politics, for which I have a temperamental lack 
of aptitude and taste. I have often expressed strong opinions, 
and have always dissented energetically from the view — 
usually held only in relation to those whose opinions are 
‘ advanced ’ — that it is improper in a teacher to express 
his views strongly, or even to be kno\%n to have strong 
views on any political question. I assert my right, as a 
teacher, to teach what I believe to be the truth, whether 
other people agree with me or not — but with the proviso 
that, if I set out to teach, I must never conceal a weakness 
in my own case or allow myself to be diverted by considera- 
tions of political expediency from telling the truth to the 
best of my ability to see it. To teach on any other terms 
would be to consent to ply my calling with less than my 
whole miinj, and with less than the best of my min 3 ; and 


Essays in Social Theory 

how could I hope to be a good teacher if I had to place 
myself in so false a position with my pupils as to conceal 
from them a vital part of my thought ? 

The relation of writer to reader is inevitably less personal 
than the relation of oral teacher to those with whom he is 
placed in personal contact. But the need for frankness is 
no less : it may even be greater, because readers cannot ask 
questions, and oral learners can. This elementary confession 
of assumptions is my answer to those wko wish to know 
what are my motives in writing, and along what paths I am 
attempting to draw them in what I have written down. 

(1) Standards of Living. I assurfie that the most uni- 
versally important of all the objects of political and social 
activity is to raise the standards of living of ordinary people 
in our own country and throughout the world (we have a 
special responsibility for our own country, but an only less 
immediate responsibility for others), in such a way as to put 
an end to malnutrition, preventable disease and mortality, 
illiteracy and ignorance, and sub-human living and working 
conditions wherever they exist. I assume that no other 
object can claim any allegiance when it conflicts seriously 
with this primary object. 

(2) Personal and Political Freedom. I assume that 
freedom and self-government are good things, for both 
individuals and societies, and that it is the business of all 
good men to oppose tyranny, either of man over man, or of 
ruling State over subject people. But I cannot state this 
second assumptiofi in as unequivocal terms as the first, 
because obviously neither individuals nor societies can be 
left entirely uncontrolled. There must be a rule of law, for 
both men and peoples ; and all that can be sought is that 
this rule shall be such as to provide within the social en- 
vironment the largest amounts of liberty for all men and for 
all peoples that are consistent with the equal claims of other 
men and of other peoples. This, however, includes the 
assumption that self-government is good in itself ', and that 
the good constitution is that whicl 


What I Take for Granted 

of a country (or of the world) the best chance they are 
capable of taking to play a real and effective part in govern- 

(3) Canons of Social Conduct . I assume that, whenever 
a man or a government, or any group of men or govern- 
ments, acts in a way that can be defended only on the ground 
that the action is necessary because of the imperfections 
of individual, group, or government moral behaviour, the 
necessity for so atting is to be regarded as a challenge to use 
all possible efforts to raise the standards of such behaviour, 
and that no one is ever justified in invoking this defence 
unless he is using his best endeavours to that end. 

(4) The Duty of Sefvice. I assume that every person is 
under an obligation to use his powers, whatever they are, in 
such a way as not merely to avoid being a burden on society, 
if he or she can help it, but positively to contribute to social 
well-being. This implies, for all normal persons, an obliga- 
tion to do a fair day’s work and not to be unduly exacting 
about the reward, an obligation to develop valuable talents 
and not to fritter them away, and an obligation to be a good 
colleague, so as to help instead of hindering the work of 

(5) The Right to Go One's Own Way. I assume that every 
person has a right, within wide limits, to go his own way 
and not to be interfered with or badgered about on grounds 
of nonconformity, as long as he is tolerably fulfilling his 
obligations as set out in the previous clause. I assume that 
it takes many sorts (not all) to make a good world, and that 
the only sorts it does not take are those who are either 
deliberately trying to make a bad one or unprepared to 
recognize any code of social behaviour resting on the notion 
of moral rights and duties. 

(6) Morality. I assume that the simple rules of common 
morality are valid, and that no one is ever entitled to override 
a moral rule except in pursuit of a higher moral end falling 
within (and not beyond) the ambit of common morality. I 
define these moral rules, for working purposes, as («),a duty 
to be kind, {&) a duty to be tolerant of differences within the 


Essays in Social Theory 

limits of morality as here defined, (c) a duty to regard every 
human being as an end and not a means, (d) a duty to deny 
the validity of, and to resist all claims that are contrary to 
fundamental human equality of rights, ( e ) a duty to be 
active, up to the limit of one’s powers, in standing up for 
the observance of these principles. 

(7) The Brotherhood of Man. I assume that all men are 
brothers, and that the only valid reason for hating one’s 
brother is that he is acting against what is gfood and right, in 
denial of our fundamental common morality. 

(8) Truth. I assume that truth is preferable to falsehood, 
and that it is good to enlarge the realm of truth both by new 
discovery and by the spreading of existing knowledge. 1 
assume that men are better for being educated in the truth, 
whether they are happier or not. 

(9) Freedom of Speech. It follows that I assume the free- 
dom of speech and publication to be good, with the sole 
restriction that they cannot legitimately be used either (a) to 
deny fundamental common morality, or ( h ) to attack tolera- 
tion and freedom of speech and publication within this sole 

(10) Freedom of Association. I assume that freedom of 
association is good, because men cannot enjoy full oppor- 
tunities of self-government or of discovery of truth unless 
they are free to join together for common group purposes. 
I assume that the only limitations on the freedom of associa- 
tion should be identical with those limiting freedom of speech 
and publication. € 

(11) Freedom of Will. I assume that men enjoy free will, 
in the sense that their history is not predestined, but made 
by their own ways of handling the opportunities presented 
to them in each generation by ( a ) their physical and tradi- 
tional environments, and ( h ) their knowledge and abilities. 
Accordingly, I assume that the world may get better or 
worse, as men by their wisdom or stupidity make it better 
or worse. 

(12) Right and Wrong Vision . I assume that everyone 
who acts against these principles is either a scoundrel, or 


What I Take for Granted 

blind. But, believing real scoundrels to be rare, I assume 
most of those who offend to be suffering from defective 
vision. By vision I here mean imagination, especially power 
to put oneself in the places of others, and to think objectively, 
setting self-interest apart. No one can do these things 
wholly ; but everyone can try to achieve them if he is given 
a chance. To give all men the best possible chance is one 
of the three great purposes of education. The other two 
are {a) to teach ti^ith, ( b ) to teach citizenship. 

This is not meant to be a complete credo of assumptions. 
It is, however, I hope, enough to make my point of view 
sufficiently plain. It is not a call to men to act after an im- 
practicably high standard, but only to be always doing what 
they can to pull up the standards by which they and other 
men act. I am well aware of the dangers of ‘ idealistic ’ 
behaviour that ignores realities : we are all so often reminded 
of these dangers nowadays that there is no risk of our for- 
getting them. I wish rather to stress the danger of acting 
without any moral standards at all. The attempt to be 
realistically amoral is nonsensical. A man cannot be realistic 
in political or social matters except in relation to an end, and 
that end cannot be devoid of moral content. It may be a 
bad end, or a good one : it cannot be merely neutral. The 
cant which suggests that one can set out to be ‘ scientific * 
instead of being moral is based on sheer muddled thinking. 
One can set out to be scientific and moral, or scientific and 
immoral ; but the realm of science is that of means, not of 
ends. Ends are essentially moral. The outlook for the 
world would not be any the less good, or bad, if it could be 
predicted scientifically. 

I have written all this down in as simple language as I can 
because I want there to be no mistake about the side I am 
on. I am on the side of the common people, in the sense 
that I want all men to have an equal chance of the good life 
and of living it in the ways that suit them best. This does 
not mean that I want all men to have everything the majority 
of them would vote for now, if they were asked. I do not 
stand for that kind of democracy. I want people to have 


Essays in Social Theory 

good nutrition, good housing, good education, good working 
conditions, freedom of speech, writing and association, self- 
government, peaceful relations with their neighbours, sound 
moral notions, whether they would vote for having them or 
not. To this extent, but no further, 1 am prepared to assert 
that I know better what is good for people than many of them 
can know for themselves, being less well informed and more 
held in mental subjection. By the democracy I stand for I 
mean making the people really free and sfclf-governing, not 
the votes they record when they are neither. Voting is 
merely a handy device : it is not to be identified with 
democracy, which is a mental and moral relation of man to 

I am, in effect, a Socialist. By Socialism I mean funda- 
mentally, not a particular economic arrangement by which 
the State owns and runs industry, but the entire body of 
principles I have set out on the foregoing propositions. The 
public ownership of the essential means of production 
follows from these principles, at the present stage of social 
evolution, at any rate in the more advanced countries. It is 
a means towards making them effective, not an end in itself, 
or to be pursued save to the extent to which it is a means. 
There is nothing sacred about socialization ; but can we 
find, for the main industries and services, any alternative 
way of ensuring that they shall be used to serve the ends here 
postulated ? Without a high degree of economic equality, 
we cannot have either freedom and self-government for all, 
or a satisfactory jtandard of living for all. At any rate, that 
is my view : why it is so, I have done my best to make 
clear in my writings. I may be wrong about this; for 
about means one may at any time be wrong. But I am 
not wrong about the ends I have laid down as good. They 
are good, in a thoroughly and finally objective sense. 
They are good, not merely for us, at the present point in 
historical development, and not merely in relation to the 
particular pattern of living which our civilization has worked 
out. /They are good altogether and for good, from the moment 
of their conception in any man’s mind. Their goodness can- 


What I Take for Granted 

not be alteredj though its i mplications can be bro adened and 
deepened, as a Qogsequence of anything that may happen to 
mankind. They are as true in the ‘ atomic ’ as in the ‘ pre- 
atomicj^ era [ and they will be no less true in a hundred or 
■a tKousand years than they are to-day. Anyone who denies 
their truth is blind, or mad, or wicked, or at least purblind. 
They are the postulates from which I set out ; and I am not 
arguing with anyone who denies them : I am simply telling 

25 1